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House panel OKs extending polling place electioneering ban

A sign in the forefront reads "Vote Here" with an arrow that points to a library building in the background.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

State lawmakers are considering more than doubling the distance political organizers must be from polling places while voting takes place.

Right now, politicians and special interest groups can display signs, pass out materials and other things within 100 feet of a polling location. A bill approved by a House committee on Tuesday would extend that to 250 feet.

Rep. Chris Allgood (R-Caldwell) said it’s a much needed change.

“I just feel like our polling places should be like a hallowed spot where you can go and do your business,” Allgood said.

Secretary of State Phil McGrane agreed, saying electioneering has gotten out of hand in some places, like Kootenai County. Last year, he said people fought over the single parking space at the local elections office that was 100 feet from the door.

“It became competitive for who gets to park and put their signs in that spot to the point that there was a collision competing to get the spot and law enforcement had to be called,” McGrane said.

Rep. Joe Alfieri (R-Couer d’Alene), who represents Kootenai County, said the scuffle didn’t result in any citations.

Despite the fracas, Alfieri said this bill would restrict free speech.

“We have central committees and candidates distributing material, as is their right, to solicit votes and I think this is a prohibition on our First Amendment Rights,” he said.

The bill wouldn’t apply to private property within the 250 foot exclusion zone. It now goes to the House floor.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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