Colorado Election Crimes – Part Two – Electioneering
We’re well into actual voting activities now with people casting their mail ballots in record numbers. In Part One of our two-part series on Colorado Election Crimes, we explored certain Colorado Election Crimes associated with voter fraud. In this Part Two of the series, we’re looking at particular conduct at the polls which can constitute a crime, namely, electioneering.
It’s important to understand what electioneering is because this season some voters have been urged to show up at the polls in support of their candidate. If you choose to heed these calls, you must understand what is permitted and what is not permitted at polling places, or you may find yourself in hot water.
Electioneering – What is it?
The term “electioneering” generally refers to campaigning. It includes a variety of activities such as campaigning for or against a candidate or a particular issue or question that is on the ballot. For instance, voters inside polling places should NOT wear t-shirts, hats, pins, or other apparel or accessories that display a preference for a certain party, candidate, or outcome of a ballot measure on the ballot. And, during this peculiar 2020 election season amidst COVID-19, this prohibition would extend to wearing masks that support a certain candidate or ballot measure outcome.
Also, soliciting signatures for a candidate petition, a recall petition, or a petition to place a ballot issue or question on a subsequent ballot is considered electioneering in Colorado, too.
Now, Colorado obviously doesn’t prohibit you from campaigning activities altogether. Rather, electioneering activities become crimes only under certain circumstances.
Limits on Electioneering at Polling Places
Colorado prohibits electioneering or campaigning activities in two instances. First, no one may engage in electioneering activities inside a polling place. So, if you’re planning to vote in person, leave all your campaigning get-up at home.
Second, electioneering activities are prohibited within 100 feet of any building in which a polling location exists. This means that showing up to rally for your candidate or ballot measure near a polling place, but not inside it, can still become criminal activity. Even wearing your candidate guy or gal’s t-shirt, hat, pin, or another accessory while dropping a mail ballot off at a designated drop box location can land you in trouble for electioneering (although, in reality, enforcement of this is difficult if not impossible).
Sometimes campaign workers will appear outside of polling places to offer water, snacks, and other items to voters who are waiting to vote. These activities are typically fine provided these workers do not campaign or wear any campaign paraphernalia supporting a candidate, political party, or ballot measure if they are within 100 feet of the polling place.
Penalties for Prohibited Campaigning Activities
In Colorado, engaging in electioneering activities inside or within 100 feet of a polling place will make you guilty of a misdemeanor. A person convicted of a misdemeanor for prohibited electioneering activities may be punished by a fine of up to $1000, or by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or both. Clearly, the Colorado Election Crime of electioneering is something you should avoid, and it’s in your best interest to understand how you can engage in campaigning activities lawfully if you want to show your support of a candidate, party, or ballot issue.
To be safe, keep your electioneering activities well beyond 100 feet of any building containing a polling place or ballot box within it. If you want to learn more, see the Colorado Secretary of State’s website for relevant Q&A’s and other helpful information.
It’s also worth noting here that should you want to engage in protest activities at or near polling locations, you must consider not only these electioneering rules but also limits to your right to protest. Check out our past article exploring all that you should know before protesting. Or check out information about protests in this great Webinar our partner, Justie Nicol, did with Smith.ai and Casetext.
Need Legal Help?
If you are in need of criminal defense or family law help, consider reaching out to Nicol Gersch Petterson for a free 30-minute consultation. Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.
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