Police called, Tea Party demonstrators still within their rights

Justine Stump

Those who visited the polls Tuesday may have noticed people wearing yellow vests emblazoned with the phrase, “Ask me about the Portage County Tea Party.”

The Portage County Tea Party members stationed themselves at polling locations around the county to hand out fliers in support of candidates Mitt Romney, Josh Mandel and Jim Renacci. Some voters smiled and took a paper, but not everyone was happy to see the Tea Party members there.

“It’s illegal to campaign outside a polling location,” one voter yelled as she walked past a Tea Party member on her way into the polls.

However, the decrier was only half correct.

According to Ohio Revised Code, “During an election and the counting of the ballots, no person shall do any of the following: Loiter, congregate, or engage in any kind of election campaigning within the area between the polling place and the small flags of the United States placed on the thoroughfares and walkways leading to the polling place, and if the line of electors waiting to vote extends beyond those small flags, within ten feet of any elector in that line.”

Mark Pitrone, a member of the Portage County Tea Party, said he is all too familiar with the law — demonstrators must be 100 ft. from the entrance of any polling location. At the First Christian Church, Pitrone brought his own tape measure, just to be sure, but he said someone still called the Kent police to report him for violating Ohio law.

Police responded to the call but said Pitrone was within his rights as long as he did not impede or inhibit the voters.

“I can’t get in peoples’ way,” Pitrone said. “We’re just here to let people know who we endorse, whether they agree with us or not.”

Contact Justine Stump at [email protected].