Electioneering laws ensure fair elections

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO)-- Our first amendment right guarantees us freedom of speech, but that doesn't apply to polling locations when you're casting a ballot.

"Electioneering" is campaigning for your candidate. But what you say, wear, and even have on your car can be illegal at polling sites. Election officials are doing everything they can to ensure your voting process is a pleasant one.

The law says electioneering is illegal within 100 feet of a polling location.

"It covers campaigning signs, it covers stickers on t-shirts, t-shirts for or against a particular issue on the ballot, pins on hats," said Catherine Lenhart, Mesa County Elections Director.

Lenhart has worked 21 elections, so she's seen it all.

"We've had to pull campaigning signs within a 100-foot limit. We've had to peel stickers on the outside of our doors, where people have put things, or taken things out of bathrooms that are near the voting area; we've seen all of that, sure," said Lenhart.

You won't be kicked out if you're wearing a partisan shirt.

"What we would ask them to do is either put a jacket on, go into a restroom, turn the shirt inside out, or we actually have aprons that election judges wear, and we could cover it up that way," added Lenhart.

People will intentionally park a little over 100- feet away.

"Just this last time, we had a truck parked for a candidate with the large tent type placard on the back of a truck that was parked just outside of this location here, and it stayed there all day on election day; and we had quite a few comments on it, but it was 100-feet out, so that truck wasn't breaking any rules," said Sheila Reiner, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder.

Political signs in the front yard of a home near a polling site are fair game.

"On private property, it's the homeowner's choice," explained Reiner.

Reiner says there are other places you might not think of where political signs aren't allowed.

"Public right of ways, they're not allowed, so in those cases when we get complaints. We call city code enforcement or county maintenance to go out and keep those signs under control," said Reiner.

Election officials aren't trained to physically confront a voter, but will inform them what they're doing is wrong.

"They'll end up being allowed to vote, but they are notified that they're breaking the law by campaigning 100 feet within a polling location," said Reiner.

Election officials say they've never called the police for an unruly voter. They say people most often say they simply didn't know. The Mesa County Elections Office continues to see a record number of mail-in ballots, with more than 14,000 returned so far.

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