Dothan Eagle. January 18, 2023.
Editorial: ‘Give ‘em an inch…’
Astate lawmaker in Georgia who was fined by the state’s election board for campaigning too close to a polling place argues that he’s being held to a law that wasn’t in existence when he allegedly broke it. However, there’s nothing new about his passive-aggressive action; it’s been a well-known human foible for a very long time.
In a collection of proverbs published in 1546, Elizabethan poet and playwright John Heywood wrote, “Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell,” with ell being an anachronistic unit of measure equal to just under four feet.
Georgia Rep. Roger Bruce was given a right to campaign outside a 150-foot perimeter around polling places, but on Election Day, he visited three polling places to hand out water to prospective voters waiting in line at the polls – while wearing a t-shirt with his name on it.
Bruce paid the fine to resolve the matter, but maintains he did nothing wrong, as Georgia lawmakers didn’t prohibit handing out water and food to queued-up voters until the following year, but he reveals his disingenuous ploy when he argues that he was unopposed in his race.
Bruce wasn’t fined for handing out refreshments. He was fined because he was a candidate in a race on the ballot and he was wearing campaign apparel while doing so.
Laws establishing campaign-restricted perimeters around polling places are common and well-conceived, and it’s action like this that foments ill-begotten laws that prohibit anyone for the generous act to providing a snack or water to those waiting in long lines in hot weather.
Refreshment laws should be rescinded. As for campaigners who take liberties, a steeper fine might encourage them to stay the ell away from the polls.