After catching flak during early voting for an unconstitutional ordinance, McKinney’s City Council doubled down Thursday on restricting the political speech of volunteers outside polling locations.
One of North Texas’ most conservative suburbs has refused to repeal a city ordinance that unlawfully prohibits poll greeters from exercising their constitutional rights around polling locations. Texas state law requires poll greeters to stand 100 feet away from the entry of the building. This allows volunteers to still electioneer outside the polling location, without blocking the doorway for voters.
But the City of McKinney passed a much stricter ordinance that creates free speech zones, requiring poll greeters to stand so far away from the polling entryway that they effectively cannot engage voters.
Adding insult to constitutional injury, the city’s free speech zone at its busiest polling location was placed in the middle of a ditch nearly 250 feet away from the polling entrance and roughly 75 feet away from the lot where voters park. If a voter were to drive into the parking lot with a sign on their car, for example, they would be in violation of the ordinance.
After catching flak from Direct Action Texas last week regarding the city’s effective ban on political speech, the city council revisited the ordinance during a special meeting Monday night. But instead of repealing it, they simply clarified that volunteers could speak to voters outside of the city’s free speech zone, so long as it was not political speech.
The statement from City Manager Paul Grimes dated February 28 read:
“Please note that the City recognizes that persons may wish to speak with [voters] outside the designated area. The City considers this activity a First Amendment right, so long as this activity occurs outside the statutory 100-foot zone from the polling location and so long as such persons refrain from electioneering (i.e. handing out literature, materials, and displaying signage outside the designated area) as defined above.”
Previous ordinances enacted in other cities similar to McKinney’s have already been struck down by lawsuits from residents. There is ample legal precedent stating that such restrictions that discriminate against political speech are unconstitutional.
According to sources, since the city doubled down on its ordinance Monday night, city police have now started ticketing individuals who hold political signs outside of the polling locations. This will inevitably prompt a civil rights lawsuit that the City of McKinney will lose and that will end up costing taxpayers.