On Tuesday, Bill Clinton sprinted around Massachusetts, putting in appearances at a variety of polling places, stumping for his wife, and skirting state rules for Election Day campaigning. One New Bedford woman posted a video showing long lines that accrued as voters were forced to wait for Clinton to leave.
“We had to remind some of our poll workers that even a president can’t go inside and work a polling place,” the Massachusetts secretary of state, William F. Galvin, told the New York Times, after Clinton entered a polling place in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood to shake hands with poll workers and buy a coffee.
“We had to remind everybody what the rules are, that there is no campaigning within 150 feet of the voting booths because people are entitled to their privacy,” Galvin said. “And it’s not just him but his media entourage.”
Clinton later appeared with Mayor Jonathan Mitchell outside of a polling place in New Bedford. “He can go in, but he can’t approach voters,” the secretary of state said. “We just took the extra precaution of telling them because this is not a usual occurrence. You don’t usually get a president doing this.”
According to the Election Day Legal Summary on Galvin’s website, certain activities on Election Day are prohibited within polling locations and within 150 feet of polling places, including the “solicitation of votes for or against, or any other form of promotion or opposition of, any person or political party.”
Mayor Mitchell’s office did not immediately respond to Gawker’s request for comment on whether he and President Clinton were 150 feet away from the polling place, or whether anyone had anticipated delays caused by the president’s appearance.
Update – 8:00 pm
A spokeswoman for Mayor Jonathan Mitchell’s office writes, “Earlier today, former President Bill Clinton visited New Bedford and stopped briefly in Buttonwood Park where many area residents greeted him. The polling place in Buttonwood Park remained open at all times today and no orders were given to restrict access at any location. At no time did former President Clinton enter a polling location in New Bedford.”