Letter to Illinois State Board of Elections: Election Day Text Messages May Violate Law against Electioneering in Polling Places
OCTOBER 30, 2008
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has issued a request to the Illinois State Board of Elections to investigate whether the Obama campaign’s planned Election Day text messages would violate a state law that prevents electioneering in polling places. Judicial Watch plans to issue similar requests to election officials in other states.
According to media reports, Senator Obama’s campaign sent text messages to voters on primary day in New Hampshire encouraging them to vote for Senator Obama. The Obama campaign apparently intends to conduct a similar text message campaign on Election Day. Given that these messages will likely be received and read by voters on their cell phones inside polling places, and perhaps inside voting booths, the messages may violate an Illinois state law against electioneering within polling places.
Illinois law specifically states: "No…person shall, at any primary or election, do any electioneering or soliciting of votes or engage in any political discussion within any polling place." [10 ILCS 5/17-29 (a)]
According to the Judicial Watch letter, dated October 28, 2008:
"Even if an individual is planning on voting for Senator Obama on Election Day, a voter should be able to enter a polling place and cast his or her vote without being subjected to yet more electioneering. Secrecy, privacy, and freedom from outside influence in the polling place are fundamental to ensuring a fair election process. The people of Illinois must be free to cast their votes without electioneering text messages inside Illinois polling places. Illinois law requires no less."
"There is no difference between a text message received on a cell phone in a polling station and a campaign sign. The effect is to influence citizens as they cast votes. This electioneering is prohibited not only by Illinois state law, but the by the laws of other states as well. We expect that responsible government authorities will ask Senator Obama to abandon his planned Election Day text message campaign. Our letter to Illinois is a first step, as we’re working now to alert other states about this matter," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.