State has specific rules for lectioneering, poll watchers

With Election Day on Tuesday, voters and campaigns have certain rules they have to follow.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office lists several rules pertaining to electioneering and poll watching at polling places on Election Day.

Electioneering – campaigning for a particular candidate – is illegal at Iowa polling places and considered a misdemeanor offense.

State law prohibits any type of electioneering, including loitering in a polling place while wearing political items, posting signs or soliciting votes at or within 300 feet of a polling place.

The sign prohibition includes signs greater than 90 square inches on a vehicle parked within 300 feet of a polling place.

“We initially had some signs that had to be moved,” Washington County Auditor Dan Widmer said. “That’s typical. I don’t think there was any ill intent. They just weren’t aware of the rules.”

According to the Secretary of State’s website, voters are allowed to wear campaign button or T-shirts when they go to vote, but they must leave the polling place as soon as they are done voting.

However, employees of the county auditor’s office, precinct election officials, poll watchers, and observers at satellite voting locations are not allowed to wear political items while at the polling place.

The state also has rules pertaining to poll watchers.

Poll watchers are appointed by a political party’s executive or central committee, and only three poll watchers per political party are allowed at a polling place.

Poll watchers must provide documentation to show that they have been appointed as poll watchers.

“There are forms we ask poll watchers to complete beforehand and bring with them to the polling places,” Widmer said.

Candidates on the ballot, incumbent officeholders and precinct election officials working at the election are prohibited from being poll watchers.

Poll watchers may observe but not interfere with the election process.

They are allowed to look at eligibility slips or voter rosters, write down names of people who have or have not voted, challenge a voter’s qualifications and report problems to the county auditor.

Poll watchers may not handle ballots, voting equipment or the election register; inspect voter identification documents; compare signatures on ballot envelopes; solicit votes for candidates; offer advice or literature to voters; interrupt, hinder, oppose or talk to voters; and wear any clothing or items of a political nature.

“They have to stay in the background and keep a low profile,” Widmer said.