The information below was sent to the Town Manager shortly after the Town Council reviewed changes to the Electioneering Bullpens by Greg Carson. At the August 15th Town Council meeting the electioneering bullpens to the yellow area in the picture below. The Town Moderator change that plan last week. For years there were two bullpens. In todays highly polarized political climate two bullpens make 110% sense and it’s a simple solution.
The evolution of a designated electioneering space, colloquially known as the “bullpens,” has been an excellent example of cooperation among groups who often agree on very little. More than two decades ago, the bullpen solution was conceived by Gregory Carson and Jerry Connor, representing the town GOP and Democratic committees, and John Michels, then town moderator. Further modification of the bullpen solution was made in cooperation with the town moderator Cindy Rice-Conley and the town political committees resulting in the current design. The design has been modified several times over the years to ensure an equitable solution that suits the needs of the voter’s right to unmolested access to the polling location and the candidate’s rights to exercise their Constitutional rights all the while providing for safety and security for everyone participating in election day activities. The request for further modifications to move the bullpens to clear the designated fire lane is not unexpected as it had been a subject of discussion on more than one occasion. We are unaware of anyone objecting to the recommendation to the town council regarding the fire lane.
The Two Bullpen Solution
The two-bullpen concept was a negotiated solution with the two committees, the town moderator and then police chief Joe Ryan. In a previous iteration of the bullpen solution, there was a single bullpen resulting in several instances of inappropriate behavior by poll-standers. While much of the discord with poll-standers was limited to verbal altercations, there were several incidents of pushing and shoving by out-of-town groups supporting opposing candidates for federal offices. To a much lesser extent, there were many episodes of jockeying for prime standing and sign locations along the fence by candidates and supporters from the opposing town committees. The negotiated solution added a second separate bullpen, one designated for each of the two town political committees, virtually eliminating all troublesome behavior, including disputes over space for candidate signs on the fence line.(1)
(1) Attaching campaign signs on the outside of the temporary chain-link bullpen fences, below the top of the fence, was a combination of a legal interpretation of RSA 653:49, V and VI (not affixed to “building and grounds” and generally attended by one or more town committee members all day) and discretion of the moderator. This result has been deemed in compliance of the RSA by the Secretary of State staff and NH Attorney General inspectors on multiple occasions.
It should be noted the two political committees have previously agreed to alternate the use of each bullpen as to not give one committee what some perceive as the “better side’ of the entrance to the building. We would anticipate this agreement would be more closely followed with the new proposed locations.
The August 15th, Proposal to the Town Council
The map contained in the council agenda designates two locations for electioneering, one pink and one yellow. We believe the pink designated area complies with the spirit and intent of the law while meeting the needs of the candidates and candidate committees. We assert the second location, designated in yellow, does not meet the spirit or intent of the law on multiple points. Fortunately, there is an easy alternative solution.
659:43 Electioneering at the Polling Place. –
III. The moderator shall designate a preferred area for electioneering, which to the extent practical shall be within sight and conversation-level sound of the primary entrance to the polling place…
The yellow designated location fails both within sight and distance to have a conversation-level interaction with voters.
Apart from those walking along the designated exit route from the parking lot, the yellow location is, at best, an obstructed view of voters entering the polling location. The yellow location is blocked from view by parked cars and cannot be viewed until voters have entered the fire lane in front of the polling location and only then if they turn around or look back over their left shoulder. (See highlighted area in grey)
The yellow location to the center of the curb in front of the entryway doors is 65 feet. The generally accepted distance to have an outdoor conversation is between 5 and 20 feet, depending on background noise and wind speed. Therefore, the yellow location is more than three times the distance needed to comply with the RSA even under ideal conditions − zero windspeed and no vehicle noise in the parking lot.
The Simple Solution
Locating the yellow location to the area designated in green would comply with the various RSA’s; it would also solve the “equal but separate” locations for the two political parties. One might assume the green area was not selected because of the proximity to the polling location exit doors or the location of the memorial stone, both of those two impediments can be easily mitigated. The back of the bullpen could be closed off with traffic cones, or additional fencing, 10 feet back from the exit sidewalk. The memorial stone and adjacent bush could also be blocked off/protected with a hurricane fencing or something similar.(2)
Therefore, we respectfully request the town council relocate the second bullpen from the current proposed yellow location to the green location on our map.
(2) Any supplies required to block-off the walkway, or protect the memorial stone, will be supplied/donated to the school district.
Electioneering Area Change for September Primary?
Londonderry NH Primary Electioneering Changes
Town Council Discussion on 8/15/2022