Electioneering case at polls leaves board wondering: Who was that masked man?

Not a part of Monroe County’s election board meeting on Thursday was the expected hearing for a voter who is said to have displayed campaign material for his preferred candidate inside the polls during early voting last October.

File photo from early voting in October 2020.

The complaint that was filed with the board said he was wearing a COVID-19 mask, with the name of his preferred presidential candidate, reportedly Donald Trump. The voter refused to swap to a different mask or turn his own inside out.

He was still allowed to cast a ballot, because state law does not allow election officials to prevent someone from voting.

But the election board does not know who the man is.

That means he could not be invited to appear in front of the board to explain himself. And that’s why no hearing took place on Thursday.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the voter could wind up charged with committing a Class A misdemeanor, co-general counsel for the Indiana’s election division Matthew Kochevar told The Square Beacon last year.

The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

It’s not the election board members who decide the question of guilt. Their role would be to forward the matter to the county prosecutor.

The man was not familiar to anyone who witnessed the scene during early voting in October, which was held at Election Central at Madison and 7th streets, according to election board member Carolyn VandeWiele.

VandeWiele said it was the first time a situation like this had ever arisen in Monroe County, where someone refused to comply with a poll worker’s request to obscure a campaign message, by removing a campaign button or covering up a T-shirt.

Even though the situation was handled properly under the law—the voter was allowed to cast a ballot—VandeWiele said the board should develop a procedural policy for poll workers, in case it happens in the future.

“We do need to have a written complaint and all the details, should this happen again,” VandeWiele said. That procedural policy, for recording complete details of the incident, might be reviewed at the board’s meeting next month, VandeWiele said. VandeWiele is the Democratic Party’s appointee to the three-member election board.

What about the mask-wearer from October’s early voting?

At Thursday’s meeting, Hal Turner, who’s the Republican Party’s appointee to the board, said, “We’re not putting to rest the previous incident. We’ll continue to interview people to try to find who this individual was, so that we can take action, perhaps at the next meeting.”

Turner added, “But we’ve interviewed everyone we can think of who was present at that time. And while there was a complaint filed, the complaint did not include the name of the person.” Turner said, “I want to apologize to the board for not having been ready with the correct information for this. I was chair [of the election board] at the time and the responsibility is mine.”

The electioneering law that the mask wearer is alleged to have violated during October’s early voting period talks about behavior on “election day.”

In some other counties, it’s been questioned whether the prohibition against electioneering extends to early voting, Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne, said at Thursday’s meeting.

Browne described a bill that’s been introduced for this year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly [HB 1485 (Voting matters)] that would clarify that electioneering in the polls is prohibited during early voting and on election day.

HB 1485 covers a broad range of topics, including a provision to allow for the carry of firearms within the polls.

Browne included HB 1485 on the list of election-related legislation that she reviewed for the board during Thursday’s meeting.

Here’s the complete list:

HB 1133: Vote by mail.
Authored by Rep. Pat Boy
DIGEST
Vote by mail. Requires that all elections be conducted by mail beginning with elections in 2024. Provides for the January 1, 2024, expiration of several provisions of the election code that will be obsolete under a vote by mail system. Requires the interim study committee on elections to study the transition to a vote by mail system and propose necessary legislation to accomplish the transition.

HB 1134: Nomination of candidates.
Authored by Rep. Ethan Manning
DIGEST
Nomination of candidates. Provides that candidates for United States Senate and governor nominated by a political party other than a major political party at a convention must obtain and file their petitions at the same time as candidates nominated for these offices at a primary election.

HB 1195: Straight ticket voting.
Authored by Rep. Thomas Saunders
DIGEST
Straight ticket voting. Removes a voter’s option to vote for all candidates of a political party or an independent ticket at one time (straight ticket voting) in a general or municipal election, except for candidates for presidential electors. Repeals superseded statutes relating to straight ticket voting

HB 1216: Ranked choice voting for local elections.
House Bill 1216
Authored by Rep. Sue Errington
DIGEST
Ranked choice voting for local elections. Permits a municipality to implement ranked choice voting for all of the municipality’s elected offices. Permits a county to implement ranked choice voting for all offices elected in the county. Permits a school corporation to implement ranked choice voting for election of members of the governing body of the school corporation. Establishes the procedure for a voter to rank the candidates according to the voter’s choice when there are three or more candidates for election to an office. Establishes the procedures to count the voter’s choices as votes at various stages of tabulating ballots. Makes conforming amendments.

HB 1288: Election security.
Authored by Rep. Ryan Lauer
DIGEST
Election security. Provides that a voting system must include the following: (1) Votes stored as a whole number, without the use of decimals or fractions. (2) Vote tabulation allowing for a ratio of one person to one vote. (3) No weighted vote features. Provides that a voting system using an automatic tabulating machine may be tabulated only within Indiana. Provides that the results from a voting system must be published to the public before any results are transmitted outside of Indiana.

HB 1290: Commission on election integrity.
Authored by Rep. Curt Nisly.
Co-Authored by Rep. John Jacob / Co-Authors
DIGEST
Commission on election integrity. Establishes the commission on election integrity. Requires the commission to consider various means by which to increase the integrity of elections in Indiana. Requires the commission to submit a report to the legislative council, including recommendations for legislation, not later than July 1, 2022. Provides that the statute expires January 1, 2023.

HB 1301: Same day registration.
Authored by Rep. Vernon Smith
DIGEST
Same day registration. Permits a voter to register at the polls by completing a voter registration form and an affirmation that the individual has not voted elsewhere in the election and by providing proof of residence. Requires the ballot of a voter who registers at the polls to be treated as a provisional ballot.

HB 1330: Automatic voter registration.
Authored by Rep. Blake Johnson
DIGEST
Automatic voter registration. Provides that an application to obtain or renew a motor vehicle driver’s license or permit or an identification card serves as a voter registration application unless the applicant expressly declines on the application to register to vote. Provides that a voter becomes registered to vote when the county voter registration office determines the voter appears to be eligible to vote at the address on the voter’s voter registration application.

HB 1357: Circuit court clerk matters.

Authored by Rep. Timothy Wesco.
Co-Authored by Rep. Alan Morrison / Co-Authors
DIGEST
Circuit court clerk matters. Provides that certain individuals who are not eligible to vote because of age may serve as certain election officers, both before and on election day, and as assistants in the preparation of absentee ballots. Provides that a school that is used as a polling place may not provide on-site instruction to students on election day. Provides that a precinct may be established with fewer than 600 active voters if establishing the precinct would avoid establishing a split precinct. Establishes a procedure for casting a voter’s ballot at an early voting site if the voter does not complete the procedures for casting the voter’s ballot. Provides that absentee ballots may be scanned, but not tabulated, before election day. Requires the county election board to begin entering unofficial results canvassed by the county election board into the computerized list beginning at 7 p.m. on election night and continuing at stated intervals through the day after election day until the entry of unofficial results is completed. Provides that a person who violates any provision of the election law by providing any other person with information concerning the number of votes received by candidates or on a public question on absentee ballots before the close of the polls on election day commits a Level 6 felony. (Under current law, the crime is committed only if certain cited provisions of election law are violated.) Eliminates the requirement that the alcohol and tobacco commission distributes a registry of permits to the circuit court clerks. Eliminates the requirement that notice of certain alcohol and tobacco commission hearings be given to the circuit court clerk.

HB 1365: Various elections matters.

Authored by Rep. Timothy Wesco.
Co-Authored by Rep. Ethan Manning / Co-Authors
DIGEST
Various elections matters. Repeals obsolete dates and application provisions. Updates statutes setting schedules for upcoming elections. Amends the definition of “de minimis change” and “electronic poll book”. Requires the entry of filing information concerning all candidates into the statewide voter registration system. Requires accurate presentation of a candidate’s name containing a pronunciation symbol, such as an accent mark. Provides that the precinct judge performs the duties of a precinct election sheriff when the position of the election sheriff has been omitted by a county election board or when a county vote center plan does not specify who performs those duties. Provides that, with certain exceptions, an individual must be a citizen of the United States to be permitted in the polls during an election. Gives the secretary of state the ability to grant exceptions to individuals. [MORE]

HB 1485: Voting matters.
Authored by Rep. Timothy Wesco
DIGEST
Voting matters. Defines “breach of peace” and “law enforcement officer” for purposes of election law. Includes an identification document issued by a Native American Indian tribe or band for purposes of proof of identification. Provides for the carrying of firearms within the polls or chute. Permits a county to prohibit a precinct election officer from carrying a firearm within the polls or chute on election day as a condition of the appointment. Allows a political subdivision whose property is designated as a polling place location to adopt a policy prohibiting the carrying of firearms in the polls and the chute on election day. Specifies to whom a watcher must report any violation of election laws. Requires the prior consent of an inspector for a watcher to object to any other precinct election officer concerning an alleged violation of election laws and allows for the removal of the watcher and revocation of credentials for a violation. Amends the definition of “electioneering” and adds language prohibiting making verbal statements, displaying certain written statements, or the display of support for the approval or defeat of a public question and electioneering before election day in specified locations.

HB 1504: Elimination of straight ticket voting.
Authored by Rep. John Jacob.
DIGEST
Elimination of straight ticket voting. Removes a voter’s option to vote for all candidates of a political party or an independent ticket at one time (straight ticket voting) in a general or municipal election, except for candidates for presidential electors. Repeals superseded statutes relating to straight ticket voting.

SB 173: Prohibition of firearms at polling places.
Authored by Sen. Lonnie Randolph
DIGEST
Prohibition of firearms at polling places. Prohibits a person from carrying a firearm in, on, or near: (1) a chute; (2) polls; (3) areas where voters congregate or are likely to congregate; or (4) any room where ballots are being counted. Provides that the offense is a Class C misdemeanor. Enhances the offense to a: (1) Class A misdemeanor if the person has a prior unrelated conviction for the offense; or (2) Level 6 felony if the person points the firearm at another person. Specifies: (1) a defense; and (2) certain notice requirements. Prohibits certain other defenses. Defines certain terms. Makes conforming amendments.

SB 182: Filling vacancies.
Authored by Sen. Mike Gaskill, Sen. Aaron Freeman
DIGEST
Filling vacancies. Provides that in order for a precinct committeeman or a precinct vice committeeman (exercising the precinct committeeman’s proxy) to participate in a caucus to fill a vacancy, the committeeman or vice committeeman must be entitled to vote for the office for which a successor is to be selected in the caucus. Makes a technical correction

SB 260: Circuit court clerk matters.
Authored by Sen. Greg Walker
DIGEST
Circuit court clerk matters. Provides that certain individuals who are not eligible to vote because of age may serve as certain election officers, both before and on election day, and as assistants in the preparation of absentee ballots. Provides that a school that is used as a polling place may not provide on-site instruction to students on election day. Establishes a procedure for casting a voter’s ballot at an early voting site if the voter does not complete the procedures for casting the voter’s ballot. Provides that absentee ballots may be scanned, but not tabulated, before election day. Eliminates the requirement that the alcohol and tobacco commission distributes a registry of permits to the circuit court clerks. Eliminates the requirement that notice of certain alcohol and tobacco commission hearings be given to the circuit court clerk. View less

SB 299: Theft by public employees.
Authored by Sen. Erin Houchin
DIGEST
Theft by public employees. Provides that the court shall order, in addition to any criminal penalty imposed, that a public servant be imprisoned for at least 30 days if the public servant is convicted of the offense of theft of public funds from the public servant’s employer having a value of at least $10,000. Provides that the mandatory term of imprisonment imposed on the public servant convicted of the offense of theft of public funds having a value of at least $10,000: (1) may not be suspended; and (2) does not count towards earned good time credit.

SB 291: Early voting.
Authored by Sen. Jean Breaux
DIGEST
Early voting. Requires a county election board to establish at least one satellite office in the county for an election. Requires a county to establish one additional satellite office in the county for each 30,000 active voters in the county. Requires that an absentee ballot marked and forwarded by a voter who subsequently dies be counted if the voter’s name appears on the registration rolls for the precinct, and the absentee ballot would otherwise be entitled to be counted if the voter had not died.

SB 353: Various election law matters.
Authored by Sen. Erin Houchin
DIGEST
Various election law matters. Requires an individual to show the individual’s proof of citizenship to register to vote. Requires a risk-limiting audit to be conducted after each election before the results are certified.

One thought on “Electioneering case at polls leaves board wondering: Who was that masked man?

  1. Wouldn’t this voter have had to identify himself to obtain a ballot? Wouldn’t his name be known?

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