Bill Clinton Appearance Blocks Super Tuesday Voters; Did Former President Violate Election Rules?
Many Massachusetts voters are crying foul on Super Tuesday as they say they were blocked from voting for hours due to security for an appearance by former president Bill Clinton, campaigning for his wife Hillary Clinton. A video of voters waiting for Super Tuesday polls to open began circulating this morning, and as of 5 p.m. ET, a representative of the office of William Francis Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, confirmed complaints that the New Bedford polls had been blocked, but would not say for how long voters were turned away.
In a call with Secretary Galvin’s office, the unidentified representative confirmed that they received several complaints Super Tuesday morning about the New Bedford polling site being locked for hours as residents waited to try to vote before going to work, and he said they “took care of it” as soon as they got the calls. While lines are clear now, the elections office representative would not confirm, even approximately, when the issue was resolved, declining to indicate even if it was morning or afternoon. The representative also indicated it was unlikely that voting times would be extended, repeating several times that as long as voters were in line by 8 p.m., they would be allowed to vote, but not addressing the issue of those early morning voters who had tried to vote before going to work. He also indicated any extension of voting times would be up to the local New Bedford election officials.
A call was placed to the New Bedford polling site, but after being put on hold for the elections official in charge of the polling place, the call was disconnected.
Massachusetts polling regulations are posted on Secretary Galvin’s site, and noted as follows:
“The minimum hours polls are open are set by state law, although city council and town selectmen actually set the hours in conjunction with these statutes and local ordinances and by-laws. For state elections and city elections, polling locations must be open at least thirteen hours and for town elections, polling locations must be open at least four hours. G. L. c. 54, § 64 (2002 ed.). For state primaries, polling locations must be open at least thirteen hours. G. L. c. 53, § 43 (2002 ed.). For certain city preliminaries, the polling locations must be open at least six hours. G. L. c. 43, § 44A (2002 ed.).”
Bill Clinton’s speaking event, held at Buttonwood Park Warming House, wasn’t scheduled to take place until 12:05 p.m., many hours after polls were supposed to open at 7 a.m., and even with so many hours till his appointed appearance, security prevented voter access. To further complicate matters, Clinton was considerably late for his New Bedford speaking engagement, arriving for his Super Tuesday appearance at 1:30 p.m, according to South Coast Today.
Boston.com also raised questions about Bill Clinton’s Super Tuesday appearances in Massachusetts, claiming the former president may have violated election laws by entering a polling place on Super Tuesday. It’s a violation of Massachusetts election rules to solicit votes for or against a candidate, party, or position within 150 feet of a polling place.
Former President Clinton, Mayor Marty Walsh greet kids at Holy Name Parish School in West Roxbury. @wbur pic.twitter.com/Q8dnfYCP2k
— Daniel A. Guzman (@DGQuoVadimus) March 1, 2016
Boston.com spoke with Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin, who confirmed that that Hillary Clinton’s campaign “has been reminded” of the 150-foot rule, and when asked if Bill Clinton’s appearance in itself would constitute a rule violation, McNiff answered indirectly.
“He’s a well known person, and he’s a spouse of a candidate. That should answer the question.”
Galvin himself also discussed the issue with the New York Times, stating Super Tuesday poll workers had to be reminded of protocol, as well.
“We had to remind everybody what the rules are, that there is no campaigning within 150 feet of the voting booths because people are entitled to their privacy, and it’s not just him but his media entourage… “He can go in, but he can’t approach voters. We just took the extra precaution of telling them because this is not a usual occurrence. You don’t usually get a president doing this.”
Twelve primary contests will be decided on Super Tuesday for the Democratic party, choosing between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. That includes Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and American Samoa.
[Photo by Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]