At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the Grapevine City Council proposed a confusing ordinance around no soliciting or loitering at the Community Activities Center (CAC).  While the ordinance addressed “soliciting and loitering” the intent was to deny electioneering or campaigning at the CAC during early voting periods.

According to city documents the background around the ordinance is as follows:

Council Member Spencer asked the staff to draft an ordinance that prohibits solicitation / loitering at the CAC.  The solicitation would also apply to political speech or electioneering during the early voting period but would not effect the election day activities.

Existing laws address the distance candidates and political signage can be from polling places.  The ordinance proposed at the City Council meeting Tuesday would add additional restrictions during the 12 day early voting period.

The reason for the ordinance is based on several unofficial complaints made to city government.  Some citizens were approached by candidates during the early voting period in this past May’s election at the CAC when they were there only to excercise, not vote.

If you recall earlier this year, the city council passed an ordinance outlawing political signs in and around city buildings.  There was also a proposal earlier this year to move voting in city elections from the CAC to the Bessie Mitchell House.  (Please raise your hand now if you know the location of the Bessie Mitchell House.)

If you have not noticed, voting in city elections is pretty light (to put it mildly).  Citizen engagement and interest is fairly light as well.

Why would the city council create ordinances that discourage involvement in city government and create even more restrictions on those willing to participate?

Several references from city council members and even Mayor William D. Tate were made about people being “accosted” at the CAC during the last election season.  We even heard the word “attacked” used.  That sounds pretty serious.

Mayor Tate went on to say that he wants to “avoid a circus atmosphere” at the polling location.

Our questions:

Do other cities have similar ordinances outlawing electioneering at polling places during early voting?

Do the recent flurry of city ordinances and proposals give incumbents on the City Council even more of an advantage in elections than they already have?

Will giving away free barbecue at polling places be banned next?

Please let us keep the free barbecue.  Don’t take that away too.  The city needs more good barbecue.  And it needs more people involved in city government (not less).

The proposed ordinance outlawing electioneering during the early voting period at the CAC did not pass Tuesday night, but was tabled for further discussion at a future City Council workshop.