Earlier, I described the conditions at a polling place in a Church in Porterville today.
Later upon returning home to write these news stories, I decided to find the document that I was told I could find online: the “Elections Official Digest”, which was present at the polling place, but I was not allowed to inspect to see if it really had rules against photography that were being enforced by the local volunteers.
I did not find the document at the County Elections Board web site.
So I went on to my next task, to contact an official for an on-the-record explanation.
I was directed to Ann Turner, Election Division Manager who agreed to answer my questions on the record. Apparently she was familiar with the earlier incident.
I asked her what the Board’s policy was regarding crosses in church polling places and how it related to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
She responded by saying that she did not know the election code front to back, but that there was no conflict with the First, with a litany of reasons as to why there might be a cross or a church as a polling place, among them: the Board has no control over the layout of the room, they have to rent buildings for the election and locations are hard to come by, no one is trying to impose religion.
I asked her if it County Counsel supported those reasons and I could rely on them on the record, or if they were unofficial viewpoints.
Suddenly she was not interested in continuing. I asked her if her quotes were still “on-the-record”, giving her a few chances to regroup. In the end, she did not retract the reasons and remained on the record, but she did not want to answer any more questions.
What she would have been asked:
– What training do poll workers receive regarding the right to monitor and/or photo/film by the media?
– What training do poll workers receive regarding the right to see the rules and other documents that are at each polling place?
– What recourse is available if the rules are not followed?
Stay tuned as this develops.