Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Doughnuts and Swag Bags

Doug Chapin's blog post yesterday regarding a doughnut controversy in Appleton, Wisconsin hit home because we've gone through the same thing.

In Fairway, the city's police chief for years has personally delivered doughnuts to election workers (two polling places) during the city's April elections.  In 2009, though, this practice received considerable attention because some voters thought it was a clever way to encourage voters to re-elect the mayor.

I haven't ever been able to figure out how seeing an election worker with doughnut-glazed lips would influence my vote, but others were certain it was a ploy.

Thankfully, electioneering isn't an issue in Johnson County.  I often say during training that no one wins if we have an issue at the polls, so primary methods A, B, and C that we utilize when encountering someone advocating a position within 250 feet of the polling place involve hope.

That, and hope's companion, wish.  We just wish it won't happen, or hope they'll be agreeable to covering the offending item or hope that if they aren't agreeable, no one else will come in while that person is voting so we can avoid confrontation.

Our voters are pretty cool about this issue, actually.  Some of our supervising judges bring a jacket to the polls just for voters to use if they've come with a shirt supporting a candidate or position on the ballot.

In the case of the Fairway doughnuts, that wasn't electioneering, but in fairness to the law, persons bringing something to the polling place really aren't allowed.  Only voters, workers, and authorized poll agents are allowed at the polling place.

When I ran for the Shawnee City Council in 2002, I had this fun publicity idea that I would "run" for office--literally run from one polling place to another of the six in my ward.  The distance was within what I regularly ran each day, but I wussed out because I was afraid that it could be icy.

Little did I know then that I wouldn't have been allowed at the polling places because I wouldn't have had my authorized poll agent credentials.  Even if I did, by the third stop, they would have been rather sweaty.

Beyond electioneering, it is also against Kansas law to impede someone as they are coming into vote.  We're just a few months away, in fact, from many organizations hoping to have bake sales or other fundraisers for the persons coming to the polls to vote in the presidential election.   This is not allowed.

In fact, in 2008, Starbucks called to say they wanted to offer free coffee to voters waiting in line at our polling places before the polls opened at 6 a.m.  I explained that this was against the law, but that our election workers would very much appreciate hot coffee at 5:50 a.m.

Then, as they say, "crickets."

Even beyond the laws, we have some cities that won't allow their city halls to be used at polling places because, indeed, candidates running for re-election have managed to turn the parking lot into a trophy room, getting the Fire Chief, for instance, to display the new pumper secured by the incumbent.

We send cookies to our workers, and those are generally devoured by the high-school students working.  That's followed  Krispy Kreme, which coordinated a doughnut giveaway to all of our workers in 2004, but we got the doughnuts before election day.  By the time the workers opened the boxes on election day, they were anything but the warm delight you'd get on drive-through.

In 2008, we even tried to coordinate the creation of a swag bag of samples and coupons from area businesses to give our workers.  Maybe that will come together in 2012.

We'll begin our usual strategy of wishing and hoping for such a thing.  In lean times this year, that strategy will be used frequently.