Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No Cameras or Political Swag Allowed at Michigan Polling Places

Terri Lynn gives us this friendly reminder today; leave those video cameras and Obama t-shirts and buttons at home when you go to vote next Tuesday.

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and the Michigan Association of Broadcasters remind voters that a national video project urging them to record their Election Day experiences cannot be conducted in Michigan of polling places.

The "Video Your Vote" project is being conducted by YouTube and PBS. They are asking voters to upload their voting experiences from this election, both inside and outside of polling places around the nation. Here in Michigan, you are going to have to sketch a picture. Maybe make a little flip book, tape that, and upload it later. For history's sake.

Land pointed out that the use of video cameras, still cameras and other recording devices are prohibited in the polls when they are open for voting. This includes still cameras and other recording features built into many cell phones. The ban applies to all voters, challengers, poll watchers and election workers. Exceptions are made for credentialed members of the news media though certain restrictions remain.

The ban protects voters who may feel intimidated in the polling place by the presence of a camera. Additionally, under Michigan election law, a ballot is rejected if deliberately exposed. A voter who deliberately exposes their ballot will not be allowed to vote in that election. The ban also serves as a deterrent to those who may try to sell their vote which is also prohibited by law.

Land wants everyone to have a "satisfying voting experience", and if your experience is unsatisfying - well, too bad. There won't be any evidence to back you up, you whiny Democrats. Not sure if a flip book is admissible in court, guess you just have to take your chances. Michigan is one of the few states that bans the practice, although our state doesn't show up on the Citizens Media Law Project list, so perhaps there are more than it appears offhand.

Better leave your Obama stuff home as well, or be ready to cover it up. A federal judge ruled yesterday that our ban on campaign buttons and t-shirts at the polls in still in place.

AFSCME attorney Herbert Sanders argued Monday that the ban oppresses voters' right to freedom of expression and abridges their right to vote free from intimidation.

But the state argued the law has been on the books since the 1950s and was amended in the early 1970s to prevent intimidation and preserve the sanctuary of the voting place.

Voters will be asked to cover up campaign shirts or buttons before voting.

These bans are understandable, actually - you don't want people running around sticking a camera in your face or being obnoxious about their candidate or issues while you are trying to vote. But, given the reports of intimidation from poll challengers in the past, how is one supposed to prove that harassment or illegal practices are taking place?