Did Bill Clinton and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh break election laws?
By Evan Lips | March 1, 2016, 15:25 EST
BOSTON — A video has surfaced on social media showing former President Bill Clinton and Mayor Marty Walsh hobnobbing Tuesday morning with voters and poll workers inside a West Roxbury polling location.
— Sera Congi (@seracongi) March 1, 2016
State election laws clearly prohibit voter solicitation inside polling locations: “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.”
According to the media pool reports from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Walsh and the former first lady’s husband entered the gymnasium at the Holy Name Church in West Roxbury, which is being used as a polling location for Tuesday’s primary, at 9:35 a.m. It is unclear whether a visit to a polling station made by a former president and a sitting mayor constitute solicitation, but according to WGBH News, Clinton’s campaign was reminded of the state election laws.
Answers from Secretary of State William Galvin’s office were cryptic:
Asked whether his presence constitutes campaigning: “He’s a well known person. And he’s a spouse of a candidate. That should answer the ?.”
— Adam Vaccaro (@adamtvaccaro) March 1, 2016
Galvin later told the New York Times that his office has “had to remind some of our poll workers that even a president can’t go inside and work a polling place.” The pool report noted that Clinton and Walsh proceeded to move “inside the polling place, where four precincts vote, around 9:50 a.m.”
“Clinton shook hands with poll workers. When one woman asked for a photo, Clinton said, ‘As long as we’re not violating any election laws.’ He gave voters a thumbs up, said ‘hi guys.'”
The matter prompted others to chime in, including one user who pointed out that on election day in November 2014 then-candidate Charlie Baker, who wound up winning the gubernatorial election, visited the same West Roxbury polling location:
— Michael Jonas (@bostonjonas) March 1, 2016
Elsewhere, in New Bedford, another resident alleged that the security surrounding Bill Clinton’s presence at another polling location effectively prevented voters from entering the building:
Clinton on Tuesday campaigned hard in New Bedford. Additional video surfaced on Tuesday afternoon of Clinton and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell addressing throngs of voters via a megaphone in front of another polling location:
In Boston, Walsh’s mayoral spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin issued a statement denying that Walsh and Clinton had campaigned inside the West Roxbury polling location.
“President Clinton joined Mayor Walsh to thank poll workers in West Roxbury this morning,” McGilpin stated. “They were not campaigning inside the polling location.”