…General Law chapter 54, section 65 prohibits within 150 feet of a polling location, among other things, the posting, exhibition, circulation, or distribution of material — including pasters, stickers, posters, cards, handbills, placards, pictures or circulars — intended to influence the action of the voter. G. L. 54, 65 (2002 ed.). Consistent with the activities restricted by statute, the implementing regulations prohibit the solicitation of votes for or against, or any other form of promotion or opposition of, any person or political party or position on a ballot question, to be voted on at the current election. 950 C.M.R. 54.04(22)(d). Accordingly, a person standing within 150 feet of a polling location, including observers in the polling location, may not: hold any campaign sign; hand any person literature intended to influence the voter’s action at the polls; wear any campaign buttons or identifying signage; solicit a person’s vote for or against a candidate or question on the ballot; or, distribute stickers ….
– From “Election Day Legal Summary,” Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office
The ballot box is one of American democracy’s secular sacred spaces, where the fact that you voted may be public, but whom you voted for is your own private business.
Unless, that is, you happen to be in one of the low-income communities targeted for “help” from the community organizers of Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, where individuals may just need a little extra guidance to ensure they vote the correct way.
While conservatives in most of the rest of the country woke up to a celebration last Wednesday, those of us marooned in Massachusetts found ourselves left high and dry by a red wave that didn’t have quite enough oomph to overcome the leftist machine our home state is so infamous for. In spite of a number of good candidates and a palpable level of Republican voter enthusiasm, most of the races weren’t even close. Many pundits have ascribed this surprising finish in large part to the effectiveness of the organized get out the vote effort that the Democrat establishment, along with their community organizer and union allies, were able to bring to bear. Even the best and most well-funded candidates versus the most scandal-ridden incumbents are hard-pressed to overcome the extra percentage points this structure is able to set into gear on election day.
In general, this problem is a political one. As long as the requisite laws are obeyed, fair enough. We can debate the matter, try to bring a level of fairness to the system, and make an effort to expose the excesses while our side tries to do better next time.
But what if existing laws and mores were, in fact, violated? That’s where what went on at the polls on Tuesday comes in. I have heard from multiple poll watchers who noted apparent or possible irregularities at the voting places they were stationed, and Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts takes center stage.
A Neighbor to Neighbor interpreter “assists” a voter with a bilingual ballot.
Neighbor to Neighbor describes itself thusly:
Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts is a progressive organization of working class, multi-racial, and multi-ethnic people working together to build political and economic power to improve the quality of lives in our communities. As members, we lead the change ourselves through education & training, issue & electoral organizing, policy advocacy, alliance building, community-controlled economic development, and holding decision-makers accountable.
We seek to create a powerful movement for economic and social justice that builds a participatory and responsive democracy to transform people’s lives and the political and economic structures that impact them.
You get the drill. Needless to say, N2N declared VICTORY! following the election day’s results. What went into it? Let’s hear from some witnesses:
Attached is a photo I took when a Neighbor to Neighbor organizer escorted a voter into the booth as an “interpreter” [See above]. Funny; the ballots were bi-lingual so I didn’t see the need for an interpreter. She was coaching voters to vote all “D’s” and on a few occasions she actually had the pen in her hand.
I was almost kicked out by the police officer who was sitting in the room when I took this photo but I told him I’d be more cooperative and sat back down. Soon after this photo the Baker legal team [Charles Baker, Republican candidate for governor] was able to convince the warden and the officer that this woman was not allowed to escort any more voters to the booths. She quickly changed tactics and started sending people in with a sample ballot filled out so the voter would just copy it. Incredible!
If you look closely at the photo, the Neighbor to Neighbor logo is a big fish eating a little fish. The big fish is a collection of dozens of little fish. I asked one of the organizers who was poll watching as well (that’s another story), what the logo meant and she said it represented the “people” eating people like you. I responded that the logo to me more aptly represented all of us together as Americans eating the government. She did not respond; go figure.
This Neighbor to Neighbor team was a combination of a local leader who knew everybody and some out of state help to bang on doors and coordinate driving people to the polls. They are very good at what they do.