The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections has received several complaints about a man holding up anti-Hillary Clinton headlines in front of voters in line at the ACC Library.
On Thursday, the man was sitting in a reading room located adjacent to a hallway where people were lined up for early voting. He was pressing a tabloid with an anti-Clinton cover up against the glass facing the hallway.
“It’s obvious he wanted to be seen,” ACC Election and Voter Registration Supervisor Cora Wright said. “He’s not just sitting there reading.”
Athens for Everyone President Tim Denson said the man was “harassing” voters. He sent Flagpole a video of a confrontation with the man.
Wright said she spoke to library staff about having him removed on Thursday, but they told her they couldn’t do anything about it because he was in a public place.
She then contacted ACC Attorney Bill Berryman, who told her that kicking the man out of the library could violate his First Amendment rights.
State law prohibits distributing campaign literature within 150 feet of polling places. While some people who’ve complained have said the anti-Clinton publications constitute campaign literature, Wright said she interprets the law to mean literature produced by a campaign or a party.
Berryman suggested a solution: Covering up the glass facing the hallway. Poll workers did that this morning. Voters waiting in the hallway can no longer see inside the reading room.
“Now if he comes out of the reading room into that voting area, he’s in trouble,” Wright said.
This is the first sign of trouble local election officials have encountered since the start of early voting last month, Wright said.
There’s no indication that the man has any connection to the Donald Trump campaign or the Republican Party. He seemed to be “troubled,” Wright said.
Some worry that pro-Trump poll watchers could intimidate Democrats, but Wright said that the local GOP’s poll watchers have stayed out of the way, for the most part. Poll watchers are partisans who are trained by Board of Elections staff and allowed to observe but not to talk to voters or interfere in any way.
“One guy got a bit more involved than I wanted him to,” Wright said. He complained that voting machines’ screens were facing the public. But she pointed out that voters’ bodies blocked the screens, just as at an ATM, and glare made the writing on them illegible.
The local Democratic Party is not sending poll watchers to voting locations, Wright said.
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