If you’ve never run as a candidate in a local election before, you might not know that many states have a law that doesn’t let you do any political campaigning whatsoever within a certain distance of polling places on election days.
If I remember correctly, that minimum distance is 50 feet here in Ohio. This means that a local election candidate cannot put up political campaign signs, hand out campaign literature, greet voters, or have any volunteers wearing political campaign shirts within 50 feet of the polling place.
The county boards of election are usually very strict about this rule, too. Even if you want to come inside the building where voting is being done to use the bathroom at some point during election day, you need to cover up all political campaign shirts, buttons and stickers that you might be wearing.
Luckily, in my county (Lorain County, Ohio), the Board of Elections does a good job of marking exactly where that 50 feet is by putting up small flags at the maximum distance the night before the election. Since many local election candidates put up political campaign signs around the polling places on the night before election day, this helps them stay outside of the “no-campaigning zone.”
So, is this a good rule or a bad one? Frankly, I don’t even think it’s worth discussing one way or another. It is what it is, and if you’re a political campaign candidate then you need to make sure that you and your volunteers are following it by staying the minimum distance from the polling places.
Besides, to tell you the truth, there are plenty of other things you should be doing on election day that don’t involve hanging out at the polls. The vast majority of people who are showing up to vote have already made up their minds, and seeing some guy standing there with your t-shirt on isn’t going to sway them one way or the other.
If you want my advice, be sure to put up some of your campaign signs around the polling places the night before election day, and don’t be afraid to spend a couple hours in the evening greeting voters as they come to the polls. But the majority of your time on election day should be spent contacting your likely voters and making sure they get out to the polls in the first place.
Anyway, make sure you check on your state’s laws regarding how close you are allowed to put up campaign signs and greet voters at the polling places. Getting too close to the polls with a campaign shirt on might not get you thrown in jail or anything, but it is pretty unprofessional and tacky.