Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dear Jan, Respectfully

Here is my emailed response to the email I received in reply to my complaint about city employees interfering with my right to collect ballot-petition signatures on a public sidewalk in Chesapeake, Va:

Dear Jan, Respectfully,

Friends and I were peacefully and politely collecting ballot petition signatures on a public sidewalk OUTSIDE of two Chesapeake public libraries when we were told to leave the premises. We were not blocking anyone. I have attached a copy of the document used at the Major Hillard Library in Deep Creek on the afternoon of Sunday, May 21st, as justification for telling us to move along. We were told this was a new policy from a recent training about two weeks ago, and that it applies to ballot petition signature gathering as well as "events" as listed on the attachment. This is putting a chill (I believe that's the legal term) on our First Amendment rights. Please correct this immediately. My next step is to address a public meeting of City Council. After that it's the ACLU.

Mary Lou Burke

Here is the letter I just emailed to the State Department of Elections, which I thought (in afterthought) I'd try before City Council and the ACLU:

Dear Virginia State Department of Elections:

Please see the (forwarded) exchange below. Is it legal for the City of Chesapeake to require residents peacefully collecting ballot-petition signatures on a public sidewalk to get written permission from the City Manager first? The candidate I support for State Delegate and I were both told to leave the sidewalks in front of two public libraries while we were politely and peacefully talking to potential voters and signatories on Sunday (May 21st, 2017). We did not block anyone, nor did we display any signage, nor were any elections going on in the library buildings that day, which I'm sure you can confirm.

On Monday morning, our candidate called the City Manager's Office to ask for an expedited letter, but he is still waiting. This could seriously and adversely affect our efforts to collect sufficient signatures by the upcoming Virginia State deadline. Is the state able to extend the deadline due to the City's interference in this matter? If not, please advise if we have any recourse or if you can offer any other assistance.
Mary Lou Burke

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