Marlboro campaigners violate state campaign laws

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MARLBORO >>At town meeting election, things appear to have gotten a little out of hand.

Write-in candidate, Patti Smith won a three-year position on the Select Board against Alice Herrick. But while at the polls, several campaigners ignored Town Clerk Forrest Holzapfel's instruction of where they could be while they campaigned for Smith.

"I told them where they may campaign, they listened for a while, then there were multiple infractions with election laws with how they conducted themselves from the entire time the polls were open," said Holzapfel.

Passionate campaigners repeatedly infringed on the campaigning policy set by Holzapfel and his predecessor Nora Wilson, which follows the state law. The law says no campaigners shall obstruct voters ability to enter or exit a polling place. Holzapfel gave campaigners a specific boundary of where they were allowed to campaign — only on the "island" in the parking lot and that no signs should be left unattended on the ground. Some campaigners did not listen to him and walked into the parking lot and approached vehicles with their signs, which Holzapfel says is against the law.

One campaigner for Smith interrupted Holzapfel's minute-taking during Town Meeting and he verbally communicated where the individual was allowed to campaign. Holzapfel said he felt he has this authority as the presiding officer of the election place.

The same campaigner who had interrupted Holzapfel in the meeting came into the polling place to question him again about the policy later in the afternoon, and Holzapfel said the discussion became rather "heated," and the two went outside where they finished the conversation.

"I was stunned by the disrespect; he didn't listen to the specifics of what I was saying," said Holzapfel. "He felt passionately about what he was doing ,which is fine, but laws were broken. It put the election in a different light."

Recently, Holzapfel submitted a letter describing the incident to Marlboro Board of Civil Authority, with hopes of updating the Policy for Campaigning for the Town of Marlboro.

"One of the Justices of the Peace was spoken to rather rudely by one campaigner when the JP stated that the campaigner could not be on the steps to the town office," Holzapfel stated in the letter. "That any voter should feel forced to interact with a campaigner when merely trying to enter the polling place is likewise a violation of the law."

Smith told the Reformer Friday evening that she was sorry if anyone was offended by the actions of one of her supporters, who she called "an over-enthusiastic campaigner."

"It was a first-time campaign for me. I am not a seasoned campaigner and I have never run for election before. I had received what I thought was good advice on how to run a write-in campaign, but it appears that some of that advice is wrong."

Smith was to have been sworn on to the Select Board on Thursday night, but was advised to wait to take her position until the matter has been all cleared up.

"Once this is resolved, I look forward to serving the town of Marlboro," she said.

Holzapfel noted that Smith did not break any laws and the candidates are not the issue, but it was rather some of Smith's campaigners who were at fault. He added that Herrick had told him she has no interest in running if there was re-vote.

"The question to me at this point is what does the town do, not take Patti Smith through the mud, but how does she take office, knowing she got there through those means?" said Holzapfel. "It's more of an ethical thing and beyond what the law states, so how she conducts her self over the next weeks, months, years, I don't know. She's a townsperson, her behavior was out of character from what I witnessed prior. There's space for passion and engagement with elections to be on ballot to serve town, but passion lost touch with reason."

Maddi Shaw can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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