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Washington County delegation electioneering bill withdrawn

Del. Neil C. Parrott sought to alter electioneering boundaries to 50 feet from the entrance and exit of a polling station

March 21, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — A Washington County delegation bill proposed by Del. Neil C. Parrott that would alter electioneering boundaries to 50 feet from the entrance and exit of a polling station from the current 100 feet has been withdrawn after opposition from the Washington County Board of Elections.

Parrott, R-Washington, feels that changing the restriction would help provide more information to voters at some polling stations. Washington County Election Director Kaye Robucci said the 100-foot limit works well and lets a voter interact with campaigners only if they choose to do so.

“We have reasons why we think lesser is better,” Parrott said.

One reason, he said, is that in certain polling locations in Washington County such as Sharpsburg Elementary School, the 100-foot campaigning limit does not work well because anyone who is campaigning there is not able to give their information to voters.

“The 100 feet is outside the parking lot,” he said.

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That isn’t fair, Parrott said, because at other locations, voters are able to get information from campaigners.

Robucci said one reason why the board favors the 100-foot restriction is because Maryland has mostly had a uniform law since 1994 “whereby voters, candidates and election officials are treated the same way throughout the state. Except for Montgomery County, the rest of the state still abides by the 100-foot limit.”

According to the Department of Legislative Services, the campaigning boundaries at polling stations in Montgomery County can be located from 25 feet to 100 feet from the entrance and exit of a polling station, subject to approval by the local board of elections.

Other reasons for opposing the bill, Robucci said, is that reducing the “no-electioneering” zone to 50 feet would lead to candidate signs and campaigners competing for the same space as signs that have to be posted by the board for the elections.

“Campaign signs will be in place before the election workers post the required signs on Election Day,” Robucci said in an email. “This could cause issues and confusion on Election Day when the election workers have a limited amount of time to place the required signs.”

She said the board had not received any calls from voters asking for the no-electioneering zone to be moved closer to the polling place.

“On the contrary, we receive numerous calls from voters each election complaining about those who are electioneering,” Robucci said in her email.

Parrott is not giving up on his idea, though, and said he liked the system in Montgomery County.

“We are going to talk in between sessions (with the election board) so that we can come up with something,” he said.

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