Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris stirred concerns of election law violations Saturday as she made a last-minute pitch to voters standing in line to cast their ballots, though elections officials later clarified that she had not broken any laws.
The California senator stopped outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland, where a long line of voters had formed on the first day of early voting in Ohio, according to Cleveland.com.
“Thank you for voting and voting early,” Harris said. “Your vote is your voice, your voice is your vote. There is so much at stake. Don’t let anyone ever take your power. The power of your voice is so important. You are going to make the difference.”
— Seth A. Richardson (@SethARichardson) October 24, 2020
We the people have the power at the ballot box. Thanks for a great day Ohio! pic.twitter.com/wWsSwTuD8n
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 25, 2020
“You are going to make the decision about your future, about your family’s future,” Harris continued. “It is through the voice of your vote. And you have the power — the power is with the people. And you know that. That’s why you’re standing in this line today, and I just came to say thank you. Thank you.”
Although the speech was relatively short on partisan rhetoric, it drew concerns of electioneering.
Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton said that Harris had her toes on the figurative line — and perhaps the literal one as well — of violating election laws that make polling places a safe space from political interference.
“If Sen. Harris is within 100 feet of the polling place entrance, than she would be in violation of Ohio law that prohibits such electioneering. (Candidates also are not allowed to be within 10 feet of voters on line, fyi.),” he tweeted.
If Sen. Harris is within 100 feet of the polling place entrance, than she would be in violation of Ohio law that prohibits such electioneering. (Candidates also are not allowed to be within 10 feet of voters on line, fyi.) https://t.co/YimA4MFf32
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) October 25, 2020
Others shared Fitton’s view that the law might have been violated.
Here we see self-proclaimed “top cop” @KamalaHarris illegally electioneering. In her time as DA, I wonder how she might’ve prosecuted people of color for committing the same infraction? https://t.co/2jNdTEwOEM
— Guy Sommers (@xxsomeguyxx1234) October 25, 2020
Is this even legal? Electioneering at polling places is at least frowned upon almost everywhere.
— ⛰ Scoobysnax ?? (@ScoobySnaxID) October 25, 2020
Campaigning directly at people in line to vote is Electioneering, which is illegal in most states. It’s possible the line is long enough that she’s far enough away from the polling building, but it’s not a good look.
— TwentyPercentDash (@20PercentDash) October 25, 2020
More than 2,400 voters turned out Saturday at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, according to WKSU-FM.
According to PolitiFact, Harris did not, in fact, break the law. The outlet pointed out that under Ohio law, “No person can engage in any kind of election campaigning within 10 feet of any voter waiting in line,” “U.S. flags shall be placed 100 feet from a polling place to mark the zone where people can’t campaign” and “No person can ‘solicit or in any manner attempt to influence any elector in casting the elector’s vote.'”
Video from Harris’ appearance did not appear to show her specifically trying to convince people to vote for her and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“As for the 10 foot rule, eyeballing the video, Harris appears to be more than 10 feet from the voters lined up on the sidewalk. She’s separated from the line by two traffic lanes, which are typically about 10 feet wide in urban areas,” PolitiFact reported.
“We couldn’t see the flags in the Twitter videos of Harris marking the 100 foot barrier. But Harris was speaking to voters in a line that extended beyond the election office.”
Tony Kaloger, the election and compliance administrator for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, suggested that no laws were broken.
“Several local elections employees including the director ‘were outside during the majority of her stop and witnessed no violations of Ohio’s electioneering laws,'” according to PolitiFact, which cited Kaloger.
“Harris did not come onto the property of the elections center. She was surrounded by Secret Service agents, and no voter or bystander was permitted to approach her,” the outlet added.
“There are several officers on-site at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Early Vote Center tasked mainly with managing traffic and voter flow,” Kaloger said. “They will step in to assist our staff with the enforcement of the neutral zone (100 feet from the entrance or 10 feet from the voters in line when the line extends further than 100 feet) as necessary. No assistance was required during the Senator’s visit.”
Moreover, PolitiFact reported that “The county pointed to a two-page excerpt from a 2019 directive from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, that explains where people are allowed to campaign.”
“Nothing in Ohio’s election laws prohibit a person or entity from campaigning, displaying campaign material, or distributing food outside of the neutral zone of a polling location (i.e., outside of the flags marking the 100 foot barrier or beyond 10 feet from any elector waiting in line to vote, if the line to vote extends beyond the flags),” directive reads.
Harris spokeswoman Sabrina Singh, said the senator “stood behind the 100 foot boundary line beyond the neutral zone.”
Democrats were not the only ones in Ohio on Saturday. President Donald Trump campaigned in the Buckeye State and voiced optimism that it, and the nation would go his way, according to a White House media pool report.
“We’re going to have a great red wave,” he said.
“It’s going to be a red wave like you’ve never seen before, because people are tired of looking at the anarchists and all of the things taking place in Portland, Chicago, New York, with crime. They’re tired of it.”
“But you’re going to have a red wave the likes of which you haven’t seen. And everybody knows it. And they — you know, I don’t think they’re doing very well. They have no enthusiasm,” he said.
Trump said crowd size alone is showing that his supporters will carry him to victory.
“Look, Obama shows up for a speech, and nobody shows. What did he have yesterday? Thirty-two people showed up? We’ve got 35, 40,000 people half the time. What’s my smallest crowd been? Twenty thousand, 22,000 people?” Trump added.
UPDATE, Oct. 28, 2020: This article has been updated to note that according to county officials, Harris was not in violation of state law. Moreover, the claim that she was “campaigning” has been removed from the headline. While speaking to voters outside of a polling place when one is running for vice president can colloquially be referred to as “campaigning,” we have clarified in the article that video from Harris’ appearance did not appear to show her specifically trying to convince people to vote for her and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
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