As primary voters in Massachusetts cast their ballots on Super Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton visited a polling station in Boston in support of his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Bill’s visit has triggered allegations that the ex-president broke a state law prohibiting electioneering near polling sites.
MassLive reports that Clinton joined Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to press the flesh in the gymnasium at the Holy Name Church in the Boston neighborhood of West Roxbury for about 45 minutes.
Clinton also spoke to an assembled crowd through a megaphone outside of the polling station at the Buttonwood Warming House in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts law states that “no person shall solicit votes for or against, or otherwise promote or oppose, any person or political party or position on a ballot question, to be voted on at the current election… within 150 feet of a polling place.”
There’s nothing technically illegal about Clinton, a private citizen, visiting a polling station. The line is if he is actively campaigning for Hillary. “President Clinton joined Mayor Walsh to thank poll workers in West Roxbury this morning,” a spokesperson for the mayor insisted to Boston magazine. “They were not campaigning inside the polling location.”
That distinction was reportedly not lost on Clinton himself. When a woman asked for a photo with the former president, Clinton said, “as long as we’re not violating any election laws,” before posing for the picture.
A representative from the office of secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts told the Globe that the Clinton campaign had been “reminded” of the rules after Bill’s visit to the polling station.
“We had to remind some of our poll workers that even a president can’t go inside and work a polling place,” Secretary Galvin told the New York Times, adding that poll workers at the later stops the former president was scheduled to visit that day were similarly advised of the rules. “He can go in, but he can’t approach voters…We just took the extra precaution of telling them this is not a usual occurrence. You don’t usually get a president doing this.”
Regardless of the legality of Clinton electioneering at open polling locations, one video taken from the parking lot of the New Bedford poll and then posted to YouTube charges that the former president’s security detail triggered a significant backup for people waiting to vote, which likely means many of them had to turn away and return to work or other obligations without voting.
As of this writing, with the votes still being counted, the race between Clinton and Sanders is Massachusetts is within a single percentage point.