Petition circulators who got into a shouting match outside a Kootenai County polling place last spring may be the impetus for far-reaching legislation.
Partly as a result of the incident, Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Hayden, proposed legislation to restrict campaigning near polling places. That proposal cleared a House committee Thursday.
“It’s meant to protect the sanctity of the polling place from people electioneering,” said Alltus.
The bill would change the no-electioneering zone from 100 to 300 feet from the polling place on public property.
“I believe it fairly represents the public’s right to freedom of speech without infringing on their rights to vote,” said Dan English, county clerk for Kootenai County.
Campaigners still will be allowed to approach voters within 100 feet if they are on private property.
Rep. Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint, said the bill goes too far.
“It’s 100 yards,” he said. “If you measure that out, in most small towns in Idaho it puts you outside the city limits. In a big city it’s a couple of city blocks. Where’s a guy supposed to petition, between two parked cars? It’s ridiculous.”
Jason Monteleone, lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he believes the bill violates the First Amendment. He said one state already has had its 250-foot limit overturned because it was unconstitutional.
The House State Affairs Committee voted 17-3 to send the bill to the full House for a vote.
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