Libraries are not and should not be campaign grounds

To the Editor:

I feel forced to comment on the recent plastering of close to 50 political signs in the short road leading to the Guilderland Public Library, which generously agrees to serve as a public polling place every year.

In the past, all political signs have been limited to a small space across the street from the library, allowing voters to enter the polling place with a free and open mind.

For this primary, for the first time ever, I was appalled to see both sides of the driveway to the library littered with political candidate signs from every party and race, crowded up against each other like parade flags!

I also noticed a few candidate signs in the small library parking lot. I have lived in Guilderland all my life and I have never seen such a spectacle, and it nauseated me. I looked up New York election law to see what the law says. The law reads as follows:

“While the polls are open no person shall do any electioneering within the polling place, or in any public street, within a one-hundred-foot radial measured from the entrances designated by the inspectors of election, to such polling place or within such distance in any place in a public manner; and no political banner, button, poster or placard shall be allowed in or upon the polling place or within such one-hundred-foot radial.” (New York Election Law 8-104: Polls).

Notably, in 2021 and 2022, there were two bills proposed to change this law. Assembly Bill 6341 in 2022 would have increased the distance to 600 feet or the entire property. Assembly Bill 892 in 2021 would have entirely prohibited electioneering on polling-place property. In spite of these much-needed reform efforts, New York’s law has not yet been changed and the distance remains 100 feet.

However, in spite of this 100-foot limit (which most of these signs are admittedly outside of), up until this primary, the Guilderland Public Library has always been respected and viewed by all candidates to be a “campaign-free zone.” A place where voters would not be bombarded by campaign messages, but instead could find a quiet and peaceful place to vote with a clear mind.

There was a modicum of respect for library property and its adjacent roadway. No political campaign signs were ever placed on the road to the library or in its parking lot. Now, that’s out the window.

The current parade of campaign signs on both sides of the road into the library can’t help but look like a politicization of the library, a pandering to those candidates who can best afford to buy unlimited loud and glaring campaign signs with which to bombard voters walking into the polling place.

We all know that national politics has gotten out of control; the idea of decorum and respect in politics appears to be completely forgotten. But I had hoped in this once small town that the understanding that the library and its entry road were “off limits” for campaign signs showed that we, as a community, retained our values and common perception that libraries are not and should not be campaign grounds.

I am greatly disturbed and afraid that, with this 2024 primary, this will be the new future in Guilderland. I for one think the library should be a place where no one tries to force their ideas on anyone else, especially when someone is exercising their right to vote.

Let’s all hope that the past understanding of the political parties in Guilderland is restored, and the current spectacle at the library will never be repeated.

Laurel L. Bohl


Editor’s note: Laurel Bohl is a former member of the Guilderland Town Board.

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