Bill Clinton’s stumping for his wife, Hillary, in Massachusetts today. The problem is, he’s blocked off several polling entrances, preventing people from voting. In New Bedford, a Reddit user posted a video depicting the former president speaking from a megaphone. Voters were roped off and could not enter their polling places.
According to videos and user u/daphrijal, Clinton scheduled appearances at several polling places, and while voting wasn’t blocked completely, his appearance caused confusion as to what line led into the polling entrance and which line was to see Clinton.
“It wasn’t just this polling station, it was about three different ones in New Bedford. His appearances locked down each voting site for a couple hours each. What happened was that they plopped down their event pretty much right in front of the entrance and then barricaded it off with lots of security. This took place at the Normandin Middle School, Dottin Place and Taber Mills Community House.”
New Bedford’s mayor, John Mitchell, apparently hosted at least one event, introducing Clinton at the polling place. U/daphrijal attempted to vote more than once but was unable to to get inside the first time she went. She left and returned an hour later and was still unable to get inside to cast her vote. She then stated that she was left discouraged and may not have time to vote now.
According to another user on Reddit, Bill has also campaigned at the Buttonwood Park polling station, and in a clear violation of Massachusetts’ law which forbids anyone from campaigning within 150 feet from a polling place.
The Boston Globe reports that Clinton was actually entering polling stations, as well, and that Hillary’s campaign had to be reminded by the Secretary of the Commonwealth not to approach voters and to remain at least 150 feet away from them. A video posted by the Globe shows Bill inside a Boston polling site with Mayor Marty Walsh standing in front of a table clearly within the 150-foot limit talking to poll workers.
Walsh’s spokesperson said the former president was merely thanking workers. However, Brian McNiff, spokesman for the Secretary of the Commonwealth, indicated that Bill’s mere presence was, in fact, a violation.
“He’s a well known person. And he’s a spouse of a candidate. That should answer the question.”
It’s well known in both campaigns that Massachusetts is a must-win for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Sanders has tightened the race so that he and Hillary are only eight points apart, with Clinton leading 50 to 42 percent. On the Monday before Super Tuesday, Politico reported that Clinton led among voters over the age of 45, whereas Sanders held a 17-point lead among younger voters.
And so, Sanders and Clinton both know that the youth vote could make or break each of their campaigns, so Bill’s strategy of effectively suppressing the vote by blocking off entrances or making it confusing and difficult to vote will likely discourage more younger voters than older voters.
Preventing younger people from voting, then, is likely a major part of the Clinton campaign strategy, and Bill’s appearances at these locations, which plainly had a high number of people waiting to vote, seemed to be an attempt at electioneering, a method of voter intimidation and suppression by campaigning for a chosen candidate directly in front of a voting station.
Because this is a primary election, some folks think this does not apply to state law. However, since each state administers its primary elections, Bill’s actions most likely fall under the electioneering law.
Massachusetts law clearly states that vote solicitation or campaigning is forbidden within 150 feet of where voters cast their ballots.
“Within 150 feet of a polling place…no person shall solicit votes for or against, or otherwise promote or oppose, any person or political party or position on a ballot question, to be voted on at the current election. No campaign material intended to influence the vote of a voter in the ongoing election, including campaign literature, buttons, signs, and ballot stickers, may be posted, exhibited, circulated, or distributed in the polling place, in the building where it is located, on the building walls, on the premises where the building stands, or within 150 feet of an entrance door to the building. ( 950 CMR 53.03(18); 54.04.22))”
Nothing will probably happen to Bill or Hillary Clinton, since they are legendary in their ability to shake off scandal. However, those voters who are currently on the fence about them may feel persuaded to vote against them after learning of yet another dirty campaign trick.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]