Desmond Jenson, of South St. Paul, took this photo at 7:55 a.m., at his polling place, St. John Vianney Catholic Community.
A woman who answered the phone at the church office said the banner had been taken down. She would not elaborate. I’m still waiting for a follow-up call from the Archdiocese.
The banner hung just to the left of the church entrance, about 30 feet from the door.
“I was pretty upset,” he said. “It’s going to be a close election. I’m not sure how many people’s minds are going to be changed by seeing this walking into the polling place. I do respect that the church has its own opinion. They’re entitled to it. But when you go through the process of becoming a polling place you have to give up a little bit of being able to express your opinion.”
Secretary of State Spokeswoman Pat Turgeon said the office is following up on these reports with calls to local elections officials. She also provided the text of the state law in question.
“Minnesota voters have the right to vote without anyone in the polling place trying to influence their vote,” she wrote in an e-mail. “On Election Day, campaign signs may not posted within a polling place or within 100 feet of the building in which a polling place is located. “
She also provided the text of the law:
211B.11 ELECTION DAY PROHIBITIONS.
Subdivision 1.Soliciting near polling places.
A person may not display campaign material, post signs, ask, solicit, or in any manner try to induce or persuade a voter within a polling place or within 100 feet of the building in which a polling place is situated, or anywhere on the public property on which a polling place is situated, on primary or election day to vote for or refrain from voting for a candidate or ballot question. A person may not provide political badges, political buttons, or other political insignia to be worn at or about the polling place on the day of a primary or election. A political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day. This section applies to areas established by the county auditor or municipal clerk for absentee voting as provided in chapter 203B.
Update: I asked Archdiocese spokesman James Accurso what kind of guidance the Archdiocese offered to Catholic churches that also are serving as polling places.
This was his response: "Our churches that were to be polling places are reminded about what can and cannot be displayed in accord with state regulations. The two incidents you’ve blogged about are the only situations I am aware of.
"Again, the St. Joe’s situation you first called me about was a simple oversight; all other election related materials were removed yesterday well in advance of Election Day."