How To Know If You're Being Intimidated At The Polls

Nov 5, 2016

In this Oct. 27, 2016 file photo, early voters stand by campaign as they wait in line at a voting location.
Credit Tony Gutierrez / AP

 

Lots of people will be heading to the polls Tuesday, especially this year. But if someone tries to block a voter from entering a polling place or aggressively tries to persuade them to vote for a particular candidate, Pennsylvania law says that’s not OK.

“It’s all based on the important safeguard that voters should be able to exercise their vote, vote their conscience, without unwanted, unmerited distraction including intimidation or any form of persuasion one way or the other,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortes.

When it comes to electioneering, Pennsylvania law flatly states that campaign workers handing out materials cannot be closer than 10 feet to the entrance of the polling place. But there are also standards of behavior campaigners are expected to adhere to even when they’re beyond 10 feet of the entrance.

“When you come to the polling place, don’t be surprised if you see signs outside,” Cortes said. “If you have someone trying to hand you a piece of literature representing a candidate or a party. If it’s more than 10 feet from the door, that is permissible and you have every right, as a voter, to say ‘no thanks,’ like when someone is trying to solicit you at the mall or anywhere else.”     

Cortes, however, also makes it clear that persuading voters should not be done in any kind of intimidating or heavy handed way.

“It should not be anything that blocks your way to getting into the polling place or blocks your way from voting,” Cortes said.

But if someone feels that they are the target of voter intimidation, they can contact the judge of elections – one is present at every polling place.

“That’s the person responsible for addressing those issues and hopefully that person will do so,” Cortes said. “If for some reason the Judge of Elections doesn’t act accordingly, report the matter to the county Board of Elections or the local District Attorney’s office. Or report the matter to us (the Pennsylvania Department of State). We want to hear about it. ”

90.5 WESA is participating in Electionland, a ProPublica project that will cover access to the ballot and problems that prevent people from exercising their right to vote during the 2016 election.