Friday, October 15, 2010

(No, really.)

The latest trumped-up right-wing kerfuffle is from Drudge:


First lady Michelle Obama appears to have violated Illinois law -- when she engaged in political discussion at a polling place!

... She let voters including electrician Dennis Campbell, 56, take some photos.

"She was telling me how important it was to vote to keep her husband's agenda going," Campbell said....

This is a massively important story to Obama-haters. The award for the most overcaffeinated headline goes to the PUMA blog HillBuzz for "BREAKING: Michelle Antoinette apprehended in electioneering crime spree" (although the post with that title has apparently been withdrawn). Other favorite headlines from the online fever swamps:

"Michelle Obama, crook or simply uneducate?" (That one seems to have been taken down as well.)

"mooch Obamy busted, caught breaking Illinois election law"

"Who need Black Panthers outside polling station, you got Michelle inside!"

Know what, folks? I hope the woman is in legal trouble for this. Really -- I want this crazed mob to pressure a possible incoming Republican administration in Illinois to press charges against her for this.

I want this because she's one of the most popular figures in American politics. She has a 65% approval rating.

I'd like ordinary heartland non-tea party American voters who don't pay much attention to the rage out there to see Michelle Obama put at risk of possible jail time for an honest mistake.

But as far as I can tell there's no actual statutory penalty for this sort of thing. It looks as if the worst that ever happens is that you'll be told to leave the polling place, or (more likely) asked to cease any advocacy. This blogger, seeking to find out in 2008 whether it's legal in Illinois to wear a button or T-shirt supporting a candidate, wrote:

I immediately called the Illinois State Board of Elections in Springfield, Illinois.... I was transferred to an attorney who literally walked me through the Illinois Election Code Section 7.29 which basically states that it is the "sole discretion of the election officers" to ask one to remove his/her candidate’s t-shirt, hat or button if they deem it to be offensive.

People on this discussion board say similar things:

I was an election judge in Illinois, and we enforced that rule pretty strongly. No electioneering is allowed within 100 feet of the entrance to the polling place -- that means signage, pamphlets, buttons, t-shirts, etc.

We actually removed signs that were too close, and we chased away a person handing out leaflets (politely, they had to move to beyond the 100-foot marker.) We had several people coming in wearing buttons that we asked them to remove as they entered the polling place, and this applied to any candidate. (There was one mother with a toddler wearing a "Babies for Obama" shirt, and we let that go because it would have been major hassle for her to take the baby to the bathroom and turn the shirt inside-out -- she had her hands full anyway. And the polling place was empty, we might have required the change if there was anyone else around. We compromised with her holding the baby against her, so the shirt didn't show.)

That's it? I guess that means there aren't a lot of Illinois residents doing hard time in Joliet on an electioneering rap.

However, another poster on this board said this:

I was an election judge in Illinois, and we enforced that rule pretty strongly.Sometimes, it is astonishing how they enforce it.

A few years ago, my City Council member went into a polling place on Election Day, shook hands with the poll workers, and thanked them for their work. No campaign flyers or t-shirts, never spoke to any voters, never talked about who to vote for, just thanked the election judges.

There was a complaint filed, seeking to invalidate the whole election and force a new one over this, and she was hauled into Court to defend her actions. But this was filed by the losing candidate, not the election officials.

Please, losers -- file a lawsuit to overturn this entire election. Force Michelle Obama to testify. Make the nightly news show the clip of her heinous crime over and over.

We'd love you to overreach that way.

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