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Madison Bulldog Now Illegal at Polling Places

The Vote Yes for MHS Committee makes it official: displaying a Madison Bulldog logo in any building where voting for the Madison school bond election takes place is a violation of state election law.

South Dakota Codified Law 12-18-3 reads as follows (emphasis mine):

12-18-3. Electioneering, offices, distracting communications devices, and signature gathering prohibited near polling place&ndashViolation as misdemeanor. Except for sample ballots and materials and supplies necessary for the conduct of the election, no person may, in any polling place or within or on any building in which a polling place is located or within one hundred feet from any entrance leading into a polling place, maintain an office or public address system, or use any communication or photographic device in a manner which repeatedly distracts, interrupts, or intimidates any voter or election worker, or display campaign posters, signs, or other campaign materials or by any like means solicit any votes for or against any person or political party or position on a question submitted or which may be submitted. No person may engage in any practice which interferes with the voter's free access to the polls or disrupts the administration of the polling place, or conduct any petition signature gathering, on the day of an election within one hundred feet of a polling place. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

On December 15, I wrote the following:

Arguably, the school may have to ban Bulldog jackets, buttons, and signs at school events where voting is offered. If the "Vote Yes for MHS Committee" adopts any MHS logos or slogan for its campaign, if they adopt school colors maroon and gold for their advertising, then the presence of such school paraphernalia at polling places could well qualify as electioneering that could sway votes [CAH, "MHS Bond Issue Early Voting Open! But Don't Wear Your Bulldog Jacket...," Madville Times, 2010.12.15].

Last night, the following ad appeared on page 12 of the Madison Daily Leader:

Bulldog logo in Vote Yes for MHS ad makes school mascot illegal at polling places
Bulldog logo in Vote Yes for MHS ad makes school mascot illegal at polling places

The Bulldog in this paid campaign advertising is now an official element of electioneering communication. According to state law, its presence in any building where voting takes place is as illegal as if I had walked into the polls in 2008 wearing my Barack Obama hopey-changey pin.

So let's see: The high school is setting up early voting places at the high school, the elementary school, and the DSU fieldhouse. On the days on which voting is taking place, election law will require the removal of all Bulldog logos from public display in those buildings. Fans coming to watch the basketball games that coincide with those voting events will need to leave their Bulldog jackets, hats, t-shirts, and other paraphernalia at home, or at least outside in their cars.

SDCL 12-18-9.2 spells out that election officer Cindy Callies, her election deputies, and the local police are required to remove any such Bulldog logos and other electioneering materials from polling sites and arrest anyone violating election law with such materials.

So, how many violations of election law went unaddressed at early voting at the basketball game on December 21?

This is the law. This is an election. It needs to be done right.


  1. Matt Groce 2011.01.06

    A few things should be pointed out.

    1). The headline to this article, as well the analysis within the article, is by no means fact. It is the opinion of a single individual. For example, this line: "On the days on which voting is taking place, election law will require the removal of all Bulldog logos from public display in those buildings." That is incorrect, the law does not require that. The author is not an election official, nor an expert in election law.

    2).The author is correct that campaign material, such as campaign signs, and posters, would have to be removed in the building where the election is taking place.

    3). The author is incorrect to assume that any individual image, word, color, ect., constitutes "campaign material". The word vote appears in the above advertisement. Should the appearance of the word vote be banned from the polling place? No, the word is universal and has no direct influence on a voter. If a candidate uses the image of an American flag in campaign material does that make the flag, or even the colors red white and blue, forbidden in the polling place? The answer is again no.

    4).The purpose of this portion of South Dakota Codified Law 12-18-3 is to prevent campaign material from entering a polling location. From one non lawyer to another, the authors claim that any image of a bulldog somehow constitutes campaign material seems absurd.

    Cory, you and I will likely never see eye to eye on this bond vote, and that's fine. That is the beauty of our democratic government. Let's debate the plans on their merits. But this argument you are presenting is grasping at straws.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.01.06

    I guess I don't consider protecting the ballot box to be grasping at straws. I will agree that following election law is an entirely separate issue from the merits of the plan itself. However, I maintain that the Vote Yes for MHS committee's use of the Bulldog is equivalent here to use of the Obama symbol. The Bulldog symbol is not nearly as universal as the word "vote" or the American flag. The presence of the Bulldog symbol in voting places is electioneering. It's against the law.

  3. Rod Goeman 2011.01.06

    Cory, the Bulldog logo is not illegal regarding election laws as it is a permanently attached symbol of the district's mascot. Either side could use the bulldog logo, whether in favor or opposed. What would be illegal is for a person sporting a cap or t-shirt promoting one side or the other, to enter the polling place while open or within 100 feet, or holding a sign promoting pro or con near the polling place. Matt's right, you're grasping at straws...By the way, what color are those straws?

  4. Charlie Johnson 2011.01.06

    Matt, Since it is obvious that you read this blog, please explain why the gym project for 5.8 million in 2007 is now only 2.9 million in this project. How was the 2.9 million arrived at? Why doesn't all the cost figures on the project brochure add up to 16.9 million. What cost allocations are not be addressed to the general public? What is the stance of the vote yes committee on a future opt out after this legislative session whereby k-12 funding may perhaps be cut 5% or more. Does the vote yes committee plan to stand by and watch positions/programs be cut? If the committee has not discuss this, why not?

    By the way, this election procedure is a complete travesty. No county auditor in this state would allow this kind of voting procedure to occur on their watch. Most people i talk to that were neutral to pro on the issue have decided against just because of this early voting antics going on. The school bond issue may in fact be lost just because of this approach. Trust and respect are two factors in life hard to come by. The school district can not afford to lose either one.

  5. Eve Fisher 2011.01.07

    The school district has already lost a lot of trust and respect: there's the fact that they have consistently ignored the will - and votes - of the people with the middle school and the elementary school. There's the fact that so far the approach has been "take it or leave it." And I am completely appalled by these early voting antics. How is it legal to have people vote at the site in question? At sports events? This is the equivalent of having a candidate's house be a polling place, and it is wrong.

  6. Charlie Johnson 2011.01.07

    Still waiting for an answer, Matt

  7. Molly 2011.01.07

    You can absentee vote for County Auditor in the Auditor's office. How exactly is that any different than being able to vote on the building bond issue in the building? If there were illegal practices going on, don't you think the proper authorities would have taken action by now? I think it should also be noted that this blog is one of opinions by the owner, not factual statements. If the goal of this blog is to have conversation about making our community a better place, it has not succeeded and is indeed accomplishing the exact opposite. All that ever comes from this blog is negativity without all the facts. I challenge you to write about something positive for a change. And maybe even a little factual.

  8. Michael Black 2011.01.07

    Everyone agrees that many issues in the high school need to be addressed in the very near future. It seems illogial that we would want to spend any more than we absolutely have to, but we should remember what happened with the middle school gym: in order to save a few dollars, the gym was not made big enough. It seems foolish now that we cannot seat the spectators.

    If we spend just enough to fix the absolute bare necessities, then it's like constantly putting money into an old car with very high miles: it still gets you where you need to go but the investment does nothing to make it last longer.

    There are very valid concerns about the state cutting way more than the 5% already proposed by Governor Rounds in his budget. If we have a worst case scenario come to reality, then we won't have to worry about improvements for some programs because those positions will be eliminated here and in every other district in the state. If this worries you, talk to your state legislator. If that happens we won't have to hear about how low state teacher salaries are compared to the other states because teachers will be lucky to have a job.

    Everyone should take the tour and then vote.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.01.07

    "Molly" -- I'll assume you're a local, since you use the same B.S. line about "being positive" that I hear from the well-heeled Madison Chamber types who just can't stand to hear criticism or alternative viewpoints. I think you have "being positive" confused with offering positive affirmation of your particular viewpoint.

    Whether this blog is succeeding at its goals or not is irrelevant to the question of the legality and morality of the school's early voting scheme. But since you mentioned it, I think this post quite specifically demonstrates the value of online civic discourse like this. We have individuals with very clearly opposite opinions coming together and airing their views. How much of that do you hear on the radio, or in the newspaper?

    If it is a crime, why aren't the proper authorities acting? Nobody's perfect. Our school officials are "proper authorities" of a sort, yet they are stretching if not breaking the spirit and letter of election law to sway a public election toward their desired outcome. (And here's your quiz question in return: if their current behavior is normal and legitimate and rooted solely in a desire to offer citizens more opportunities to vote, why haven't they done the same vigorous voter outreach for past school board elections?)

    Now, Molly, as for the courthouse: when we do absentee voting at the courthouse on county-related issues, we don't walk through a crowd and/or hallways festooned with logos associated very clearly with the marketing efforts of the Vote Yes committee. The courthouse also doesn't have election officials carrying ballots back and forth in their pockets, purses, car trunks, whatever, from various ad hoc voting sites around town. Normal elections do not create this many opportunities for fraud, lost ballots, and other threats to a fair, free, and private ballot.

  10. Michael Black 2011.01.07

    Tonight I saw the the voting location. There was no crowd in the way. There was no signs that I noticed in the short hallway coming in from outside.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.01.07

    Any Bulldogs?

  12. Michael Black 2011.01.08

    Cory, have you filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's office?

  13. Michael Black 2011.01.08

    There is no huge voter conspiracy here. The laws are not being ignored. I can assure you that the district is being very careful on how they handle the voting.

  14. Charlie Johnson 2011.01.08

    Have you voted, Mike?

  15. Michael Black 2011.01.08

    Charlie, I am a supporter of MHS academics and athletics. I am a proud MHS Alumni. Even though I am in Madison almost every day and lived and worked there in the past, I now live outside the district boundaries. All I can do is offer encouragement. Any school remodel may directly affect my family in the future depending on life's circumstances.

  16. JohnSD 2011.01.08

    Careful or fair? How would people feel if absentee ballets were taken by a Democratic candidate to a gathering of the UCLA, or if Republicans collected votes at a meeting of the National Bankers Association. There's not a huge difference and I continue to be embarrassed by anyone who defends using the letter of the law to bypass the spirit of what reasonable people know is right.

  17. nonnie 2011.01.08

    I just heard about another matter of concern regarding the school issue. Apparently during a tour the person conducting the tour was asked where the money came from in the capital outlay fund, and she stated they came from the state. This is 97% false.

    Based on the following link from the official SD Dept of Education site, the funds in the Madison district came from county 0.19%, state 2.6%, federal 4.3%, and LOCAL 92.9%.

    The capital outlay fund levy can be adjusted up and down as needed but has been at the maximum of $3 per $1000 valuation for several years now. In other words, local taxpayers are already paying the maximum levy allowed into a fund that has as its main purpose renovation and new construction.

    In 2009-2010 the capital outlay fund in our district raised 92.9% of its revenue from local property taxpayers. The prior year it was 94.3%. The total amount taken into capital outlay in 2009-2010 from local taxpayers was $1,616,219. In the previous year it was $1,498,618.

    In other words, the capital outlay fund collects over 92% of its funding from LOCAL taxpayers. If indeed the person conducting the tour doesn't know this, it is unbelievable. If the promoters are knowingly making untrue statements, it is truly shameful. We can disagree on the issue, but outright lies and questionable absentee voting should have no part in this issue.

  18. Rod Goeman 2011.01.09

    Linda (nonnie), it does no good to start a rumor without substantiating it with names. Cory doesn't allow anonymous posts, so I would hope he won't allow anonymous heresay stories. Which school official allegedly made the comment and who related it to you? Did you hear it directly from the person on the tour, or has it grown wings? There isn't a school official doing tours that couldn't correctly answer that question about Capital Outlay funding. Any administrator or educator could easily tell your rumored friend the correct answer, so I'm guessing your source heard the answer incorrectly, or it has been passed among people before you heard it and the story has been enhanced. Please explain further. Who was taking the tour and who made the comment?

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.01.09

    I'm with Rod, Linda: Name 'em! Who said it, who said they said it? I have difficulty believing a statement like that was more than a slip of the tongue or a misheard statement.

  20. Neal McIntyre 2011.01.10

    I would like to add these thoughts to my letter to the editor of January 5.

    1. One of the problems this country currently has is overspending. I think we have to consider on a local level how much we can spend and for what. There is not an endless supply of money even for education.

    2. There is an up coming school board election. I would like to see a more diverse group of candidates than we have had in the past. Just because you don’t have a white collar job or a college education doesn’t mean that you could not add some new ideas, or be concerned about education, or be knowledgeable about what is being done or proposed. I hope that we have a more public discussion of issues. If the board always has 100% agreement with the school administration on every issue then what is the use of paying for a seven member board.

    3. Cost of living raises for school personnel should not be given this year due to the cutback in state aid and in fairness to all the people in the community who did not get any cost of living raises for the last couple of years and won’t get any this year. I hope that the education community would understand that as part of the community they must share in the current state of economic affairs. If some feel they can do better elsewhere, they should pursue that course of action; however, there are large number of unemployed teachers out there who would like a job in Madison.

    4. Usually when funds run short, the school’s first talk is of cutting busing, then core classes, and then other basics to scare parents into voting for an opt out. Why not think outside of the box and consider whether or not all courses taught are any longer necessary? Should the school provide AP courses for which students can get college credit (if they were taking these courses in college they would have to pay for them)? Perhaps considering school liability, the number and type of sports offered should be reduced (in this manner teachers could be selected for their teaching ability and not their coaching ability). Perhaps the amount of administration and non-teaching staff could be reduced. I’m sure there are savings which could be achieved. But with any governmental entity there is always an incentive to grow larger and spend more money and schools are no exception.

    5. We all want our children to get a good education and get ahead in life, but in the end that is really up to each student and their parents as to what they do with the education offered. There is only so much the school can do, and throwing more money than is absolutely necessary at the problem doesn’t really seem to help very much. If it did, Washington DC would have the best schools in the nation, not among the worst as they are now.

    6. In regards to the school renovation project. It will be necessary to defeat the bond issue between 2 and 4 times before the school will consider any substantial change in the plan, based on what has happened elsewhere in the state. I would hope that the school using local contractors for the least invasive remodeling should be able to take care of health, safety, and some renovation for under 5 million dollars. In that way we as a school district would not be heavily in debt when we could plan for a new school in 10 to 12 years. By that time Madison and education needs and requirements will change, and at that time we could build a new school to accommodate that change whatever it might be. No one knows what interest rates will be, or costs, or how many students we might have in 10 years.

    Let us plan for the future and not spend a lot of money trying to save the past.

  21. Michael Black 2011.01.10

    Neal, the SD Board of Regents has raised entrance requirement for the Universities. They expect more. The SD Dept of Education just recently raised expectations that will be implemented in the next 3 years. The 5% cut proposed by Governor Rounds could eliminate 7 or more positions in Madison. Cuts in athletics don't offer enough savings. The gate will support much of the costs for football, basketball and volleyball for area schools. The only substantial place to save money is by cutting people.

    The question is: which program do you eliminate first?

    Do you get rid of aids for the lower grades? Kids get the biggest benefit early on.

    Do we eliminate the ag, art, auto mech, band, chorus, phys ed and any AP courses?

    Do we eliminate administrators and councilors?

    The very scary thing is that many of them could be gone if the rumored 10% cut comes true and it still would not be enough. That's very scary. The cuts will affect all schools not just Madison.

  22. Neal McIntyre 2011.01.10

    Michael, there are just so many dollars to go around, the school has to make hard decisions. The person on SS or other workers with limited income have to make those decisions everyday. If you are going to ask for an opt-out to maintain the current or a reduced level of education, I would suggest you not ask for a large bond issue. Perhaps the state needs to reduce the requirements for HS completion and college entrance given the current circumstances. Also perhaps the state needs to exempt casinos from the smoking ban as the loss in gambling revenue affects schools. Other things that might help would be to allow students to leave school at 16 if they want to go, some one who doesn't want to be there can be disruptive for those who want to learn. I don't have all the answers, but I do know you can't spend what you don't have, I am asking people to consider alternatives for the future, many of which could be less than pleasant.

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