Electioneering near early voting poll reported Sat.
Police were called to the St. Mary Parish Courthouse Saturday in an alleged violation of electioneering laws.
Franklin Police Chief Sabria McGuire said police received a call from Registrar of Voters Jolene Holcombe at about 10 a.m. Saturday regarding “people politicking within 600 feet of the courthouse” which is a violation of state elections law.
McGuire said officers issued warnings and “more than once” ordered those campaigning to disperse.
No one was arrested by Franklin police and the individuals did eventually leave.
Early voting for the April 5 city elections began Saturday and continues through March 29.
Holcombe said this morning “they caught us by surprise. I can’t ever remember voting 5 percent of the eligible voters on the first day of early voting. I only had three employees, with one employee out.”
A voter came in to vote early and reported that electioneering was occurring in the parking lot. Holcombe sent an employee to the parking lot who told the gathered persons they were not legally allowed to campaign within 600 feet of a polling place.
Sometime later another voter complained, Holcombe said. Another warning was delivered to the persons in the parking lot without effect so Holcombe contacted the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office who told her to contact the Franklin Police Department.
A city police officer arrived on the scene, followed shortly afterward by a second officer, Holcombe said.
There were no arrests made that Holcombe was aware of.
Later that afternoon the sheriff’s department took over from Franklin police, Holcombe said. No arrests were made under the sheriff’s department either.
There will be law enforcement presence during the remainder of the early voting period. Holcombe said this is not the first time security has been needed.
An estimated 30 people were involved, she said.
Holcombe said some voters were turned away Saturday. They were ineligible to vote, she said, for various reasons including suspended voting rights due to a felony conviction; not registered in the city limits of Franklin; not registered at all in St. Mary Parish or they were registered in another parish.
Two candidates called Holcombe reporting that voters allegedly said they voted for a certain candidate but the machines logged a vote for another candidate.
Holcombe said, “This is not true. The machines are sensitive. If you touch the machine in more than one place that might happen. You just have to touch the box (next to the candidate’s name) with your fingertip. But if you rest your hand on the machine at the time you do that, that’s what happens. Anytime you make a mistake that’s easily correctable,” she said, by alerting staff of the problem.
There were also reports that some machines were inoperative. Holcombe said no machines were out of service, and five were working all day.
Reports of only one of the two courthouse elevators being in operation were true, Holcombe said, as is normal during weekend early voting. Parish building personnel only ever unlock one elevator as standard procedure, she said.
Lafayette television news reports mentioned that voters were being transported to the polls. Holcombe noted that this is not illegal so long as no money changes hands.
Louisiana statute RS 18:1462 prohibits certain activities near an active polling place:
—To solicit in any manner or by any means whatsoever any other person to vote for or against any candidate or proposition being voted on in such election.
—To remain within any such polling place or within a radius of 600 feet of the entrance of any such polling place, except when exercising the right to vote, after having been directed by an election commissioner, law enforcement officer, registrar, or deputy registrar to leave the premises or area of a polling place.
—To hand out, place, or display campaign cards, pictures, or other campaign literature of any kind or description whatsoever.
—To place or display political signs, pictures, or other forms of political advertising.
—The duly constituted law enforcement officers of the political subdivision in which any such election is being held shall enforce the provisions of this Section when requested to do so by a registrar, deputy registrar, commissioner-in-charge or commissioner.