Cambridge boots Boy Scouts, calls support for soldiers 'pro-war'
By Matt Dunning/Chronicle Staff
Wed Nov 14, 2007, 10:57 AM EST
Cambridge - Was it just too pro-war for Cambridge?
A troop of Boy Scouts is wondering why their donation boxes meant for troops in Iraq were thrown out of polling stations last week.
Election officials ordered the removal of donation boxes set up by a troop of Cambridge Boy Scouts of America during last Tuesday’s municipal election.
The boxes were set up inside the 33 polling stations around the city to collect donations for soldiers serving overseas in the war in Iraq.
Marsha Weinerman, executive director of the city’s Election Commission, said the boxes were removed after a resident complained to commission workers about their implied “pro-war” message.
“We contacted the law department, and it was determined that the best course of action would be to remove the boxes,” Weinerman said.
In a column that appears in this week’s Chronicle, Troop leader Jamisean Patterson said the commission twice granted the scouts permission to set up the boxes at the polling stations.
“We have never seen anything like this decision in Cambridge before,” Patterson wrote. The city is changing for the worse if decisions like this are allowed to be made.”
Weinerman cited a law that prohibits political messages near any polling station in an election. But state law prohibits political messages pertaining to a particular election within 150 feet of any polling station, according to a spokesperson for Secretary of State William Galvin’s office. There is no law stopping someone from promoting an unrelated political message within 150 feet of any polling place.
While most of the boxes were set up in the lobbies or front entrances of the polling stations, some were placed in the same room as voting booths, according to election workers. Weinerman said the scouts were never given permission to set up the boxes inside the 150-foot boundary.
“This was not supporting the war or any politician or political view,” Patterson wrote.
Election officials kept the boxes in storage until a troop leader was able to pick them up.