Candidate campaigning boundaries: What can happen in and outside 500 ft. of polls
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - With days away from midterm elections, candidates are making last minute stops to rallies and polling sites. One of biggest questions voters are asking: “Are candidates allowed to stand right outside the poll doors and campaign for themselves?”
In short, the answer is yes.
However, one voter says she did not feel like this was right.
Gina Argentino of Dorchester County says she went to vote with her 78-year-old father earlier this week. She says she was ‘bombarded’ by multiple candidates and did not understand how they were ‘allowed to stand 15 feet from the door’ and campaign.
“Candidates are allowed to campaign within 500 ft. of the polling location,” Isaac Cramer, executive director of Charleston County Board of Elections, said. “They can’t campaign inside of the polling location, but they are welcome to greet voters, be outside, say vote for me. That is legal under the law.”
According to the South Carolina Election Commission’s Poll Managers Handbook, candidates may not display or distribute campaign materials within 500 ft. of the polls. They also cannot interfere with the orderly election process.
So, what constitutes interfering with the election protocol?
“Preventing people from voting,” Cramer said. “Causing disruption. We want, you know, our voters to feel safe.”
Cramer says complaints about a candidate can be reported to a poll manager. He says Charleston County hears these same concerns every election cycle. So, if this is a repeat concern from voters, then why hasn’t South Carolina law changed?
“The same people who are campaigning outside of polling locations are the same people that are elected and make the laws of South Carolina,” Cramer said.
Berkeley County says they have received very few complaints overall about candidates this year.
Dorchester County has not yet responded about the number of complaints, but an employee from the same polling location Argentino visited says they see candidates outside regularly, but no complaints from voters so far.
The last day of early voting is on Saturday and the polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For more information on candidate and voting guidelines, click here.
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