With just 10 days before the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and President Donald Trump’s approval numbers increasing, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris toured northern Ohio on Saturday to rally voter turnout in the battleground state.
One of the stops the Vice Presidential candidate made was to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in downtown Cleveland – on the first day of weekend in-person voting in one of Ohio’s largest counties.
The visit was criticized on social media – some claiming that Harris violated Ohio election law by campaigning at a poll location.
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) October 25, 2020
Although the spirit of the law may have been at odds with Harris’s actions, it is not clear that the letter of the Ohio election law was violated.
The Ohio Star reached out over email to Secretary of State Frank LaRose – the secretary was asked whether Harris violated Ohio election law and if the state election officer was looking into the matter.
Maggie Sheehan, Press Secretary for LaRose, responded:
(A) During an election and the counting of the ballots, no person shall do any of the following:
(1) Loiter, congregate, or engage in any kind of election campaigning within the area between the polling place and the small flags of the United States placed on the thoroughfares and walkways leading to the polling place, and if the line of electors waiting to vote extends beyond those small flags, within ten feet of any elector in that line;
The county board of elections can help you with the rest of your questions.
The Star reached out to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to determine whether Harris was within the bounds of ORC 3501.
According to video shot at the scene on Saturday it cannot be determined whether Harris was within the “small flags” leading to the polling location – or whether the traffic cones were used for flags. However, since the line is said to have extended several blocks as Cuyahoga County residents waited at the only spot for early voting in the county, it seems as though Harris was not within 10 feet of any elector in the long line – making the stop and short speech legal.
While there Harris said – “Thank you for voting and voting early. Your vote is your voice. Your voice is your vote. There is so much at stake;” lines Harris later repeated at several stops on her Saturday tour.
Harris concluded: “don’t ever let anyone take your vote. Your voice is so important. You are going to make the difference. You are going to make the decision about your future, about your family’s future – and it’s through the voice of your vote. And you have the power. The power is with the people and you know that and that’s why you’re standing in this line today – and I just came to say thank you!”
The Star will report back when Cuyahoga County Board of Elections responds – inquiries were made to both Anthony W. Perlatti, Director and Mike West, Director of Community Outreach.
The Star did reach back to the Secretary of State’s Office indicating that the Cuyahoga County Board was not responsive and asking, again, if it is “Mr. Larose’s position that Senator Harris was not within 10′ of electors and not between the polling place and the small flags? (Video makes it hard to see). Is she ok on the letter of the law?”
Sheehan responded: “that is a question for the Cuyahoga County board of elections.”
If Harris was in violation of Ohio election law for loitering or interfering with the conduct of the election, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor – punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both jail time and a fine.
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