For those of us who were old enough to vote before 1986, it is easily recalled how things worked on the election grounds near polling places. In short, it was a nightmare trying to vote. Workers and even some candidates were constantly handing you cards and slates, and telling you of all the great virtues of their particular candidate or side. So, when the 300-foot law was passed and was to be implemented for the 1986 election, there was much concern in Logan County.
The following is from a column I wrote when I was with The Logan Banner. The column appeared weekly and was titled “Plain Talkin’.” The column is from the April 6, 1986 edition of The Logan Banner. Just remember it was written in ’86, about a month before the primary election. I’ll have to edit it some because of its length. Enjoy the 29-year trip back in time:
“With the Primary Election growing closer, there remains a great deal of confusion concerning the recently enacted 300-foot election bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Moore.
“Of course, the law was passed with the hopes of at least curtailing polling place electioneering and possible illegal activities and aggravation to some independent voters. And, in due time, perhaps that will be the result.
“I have spoken to both Logan County Prosecuting Attorney Don Wandling and Mary Ratliff, Deputy Clerk for Secretary of State Ken Heckler, regarding certain aspects of the law, which by the way, will apply to the upcoming election. First of all, poll workers (commissioners and clerks) will measure the 300-foot limit before the polls open on Election Day. They will be supplied with the equipment to do the measuring. According to the new law, the measurement will begin from the outside entrance of the polling place and the 300-foot limit will be clearly designated. A voter will not have to walk from the 300-foot line. He or she may drive their automobile inside the 300-foot limit to vote. Persons who may be transporting voters to the polls can drive to a “convenient and accessible location.” The law further states the driver then must remove the vehicle from the limited area until the voter has completed voting. The driver then can return to transport the voter from the polls. Other aspects of the law which should be noted are:
“For instance, no posters, signs or any other campaign literature can be place inside the 300-foot limit. Poll workers will be instructed that they must take down any signs that are within the limit. What really threw me for a loop was when Deputy Clerk Ratcliff said persons who happen to live within the 300-foot limit cannot verbally campaign nor can they have any political signs on their property which are visible to a voter. This also applies to businesses. Imagine that. Because the house one lives in happens to be within the limit of a polling place, he or she will be charged with a misdemeanor for expressing their opinion from their front yard or even their front porch. By the way, anyone who violates the law can be fined a minimum of $100 up to $1,000 maximum.
“‘The statute may sound good, but it’s impractical,” said Prosecutor Wandling. “I don’t have any problem with keeping people far enough away, and I can see where people have taken advantage of the law. We’re going to have to look at this in a reasonable way around here. The Commission will probably have to at least make an honest effort to select suitable polling places.’
“Lincoln County Prosecutor Lloyd Jackson Jr. said he felt the new law will probably lead to several allegations of alleged election Election Day violations.
“I personally am curious as to how things will go on Election Day. You know what could really add to the confusion that is likely to exist May 13th? A Spring thunderstorm.
“BITS AND PIECES
“You know, when you live around a small town like Logan, Chapmanville or Man you usually get to know nearly everyone…so, whenever election time arrives you often dread it, especially if you happen to have good friends seeking the same offices…for instance, take the offices of County Clerk and Circuit Clerk…I honestly cannot say a bad word about either Alvis Porter, Oval Adams, Carl Tomblin, Glen Adkins or Charles Gilliam…however, I’m sure each has skeletons in their closets…but, come to think of it, don’t we all…still on the subject of politics, there sure have been a lot of rumors floating around concerning the County Administrator’s job should Porter win in his bid for Circuit Clerk…a couple of names I’ve heard rumored are Jim Mitchell and Jimmy Barber…last week’s issue of the Lincoln Journal, a weekly newspaper with offices in Hamlin, contained two different political advertisements of interest…one featured the grand opening of the United Democrat headquarters…the ad featured pictures of State Senate candidate Lloyd Jackson Jr. and House of Delegates candidates Bob McCormick, Bill Anderson, Joe C. Ferrell and Lee Miller…the other ad said the Lincoln County Executive Committee supports Senate candidate Sammy Dalton and House of Delegates candidates Larry Hendricks and Tracy Dempsey…best wishes to Benny Eplin Sr., who suffered a heart attack earlier this week, but reportedly is recuperating in Logan General Hospital…former Chapmanville High School coach Greg Dalton has resigned his teaching and coaching job at CHS and now is employed by State Farm Insurance Co….QUOTE OF THE WEEK: In 10 years as being Prosecutor there’s never been a case in which I thought a change of venue was necessary.”—Prosecutor Don Wandling speaking of an expected motion for a change of venue in regard to a trial concerning the death of Elizabeth Paluso that occurred about two years ago…coal production in West Virginia has declined more than three million tons from the year before…although the strike at Man Appalachian Regional Hospital has supposedly been non-violent, I received a call from a registered nurse who informed me that the vehicles of three RNs, including herself, were vandalized by persons using spray paint…also, numerous tacks reportedly were tossed into the MARH parking lot…Mt. Gay bridge remains closed despite alleged guarantees it would be re-opened to small vehicular traffic within a two-week period…DID YOU KNOW that WOWK TV’S Rachell Platt is the granddaughter of former Logan Police Chief Roy Platt…Platt also was a former State Beer Commissioner when Cecil Underwood was governor…he also served as a state policeman…the above info was brought to my attention by Jim Mitchell, who, by the way, says he will never again be a political candidate…Mitchell, who lost in his bid to become Magistrate a couple years back, jokingly says, “I just can’t take rejection…State Tournament softball dates for U.S.S.S.A. are Aug. 9-10 in Parkersburg for Class C teams, while the B tourney is slated Aug. 16-17 in Huntington…the D tournament is also Aug. 16-17 in Beckley…special note to Mrs. C.C. Chambers of Logan:…thanks for the kind words…from the files this week,…the date is Tuesday, May 23, 1929…headlines of the day then read: “A Wilderness Transformed by Ingenuity”…a lengthy story told of the many improvements made at Memorial Park at McConnell…a paragraph referring to a white cross at the entrance of the cemetery was referred to by the writer as being typical “of the Christian burial that the Memorial Park at McConnell will perpetually make possible to the white people of this section”…also in that same day’s newspaper another headline read ‘76 Will Graduate Next Week From The Logan High School…CLOSING NOTE: ‘Show me a good and gracious loser, and I’ll show you a failure.’—Knute Rockne”
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.