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Thread: Carrying while an Election Officer?

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    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Carrying while an Election Officer?

    For several years now I have been volunteering as an election officer for Fairfax County. Typically, I have been assigned to work at a polling place located within a school thus eliminating the option of carrying. This year however, I have be assigned to a location inside a public library. I know carry is legal at the library. I am looking for advice on whether or not to carry on election day while serving and/or any laws that allow or prohibit me from carrying while serving as an election officer. I so far have not found anything. Thoughts? And thanks in advance!
    "When seconds count between living or dying, the police are only minutes away."

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    Founder's Club Member - Moderator ed's Avatar
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    I read this somewhere before and the only problem for the other guy was a list of election rules that were not enforceable.
    Carry On.

    Ed

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    Regular Member ProShooter's Avatar
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    I've read the SBE rules and can't say that I remember any prohibition about election officers carrying, but I could be wrong. I submitted a list of revisions for their policy regarding voters carrying but I don't know if they passed the scrutiny of the legal team.

    ETA - I just went through the Election Day file and I can say that as of their last revision on 7/2011, they used zero of the info I provided and made no changes as I suggested.....sad.

    What is neat though is that someone can be granted the powers of a law enforcement officer in the polling place.
    Last edited by ProShooter; 10-11-2011 at 10:38 PM.
    James Reynolds

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    Accomplished Advocate user's Avatar
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    I researched that entire issue a couple of years ago for some folks in Fauquier. I don't remember the details, but the head election person (I've forgotten the title) is a law enforcement officer for all purposes while engaged in his official duties. An election officer is just plain folks with some obligation to enforce rules, and can pretty much carry where just plain folks can carry.

    I argue that a building is not a "school"; a school is a collection of people, as a "court" is the name of a procedural event, not a place; therefore, a "polling place" is not a "school" while the area is in use as a polling place, even if school is going on in other parts of the building (there is no school on election day where I live). There are no cases saying so, however, and I wouldn't want to be the one to test the hypothesis.
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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by user View Post
    I researched that entire issue a couple of years ago for some folks in Fauquier. I don't remember the details, but the head election person (I've forgotten the title) is a law enforcement officer for all purposes while engaged in his official duties. An election officer is just plain folks with some obligation to enforce rules, and can pretty much carry where just plain folks can carry.

    I argue that a building is not a "school"; a school is a collection of people, as a "court" is the name of a procedural event, not a place; therefore, a "polling place" is not a "school" while the area is in use as a polling place, even if school is going on in other parts of the building (there is no school on election day where I live). There are no cases saying so, however, and I wouldn't want to be the one to test the hypothesis.
    Yep, in Fredericksburg, school is often in session on Election Day. They do seem to have a dedicated entrance, and the hallways blocked off from the rest of the building. That is probably one of those cases that you could eventually win, IF your funds held out long enough to get to the right judge.

    TFred

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    Quote Originally Posted by user View Post
    I argue that a building is not a "school"; a school is a collection of people, as a "court" is the name of a procedural event, not a place; therefore, a "polling place" is not a "school" while the area is in use as a polling place, even if school is going on in other parts of the building (there is no school on election day where I live). There are no cases saying so, however, and I wouldn't want to be the one to test the hypothesis.
    Except, the law doesn't just prohibit carrying a firearm in a school when classes are in session. It specifically prohibits:
    B. If any person possesses any firearm designed or intended to expel a projectile by action of an explosion of a combustible material while such person is upon (i) any public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school, including buildings and grounds; (ii) that portion of any property open to the public and then exclusively used for school-sponsored functions or extracurricular activities while such functions or activities are taking place; or (iii) any school bus owned or operated by any such school, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.
    The wording here makes it clear that it isn't just referring to the school as a gathering of people in an educational setting (as would apply in (ii)), but also the physical building and grounds commonly used for that purpose, or the organization that provides such services (and any property that said organization owns or uses for that purpose).

    Even if part of the building is being used as a polling place, it is still part of the "buildings and grounds" of a "public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school", and so carry would be prohibited.
    Alma 43:47 - "And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed...."
    Self defense isn't just a good idea, it's a commandment.

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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grylnsmn View Post
    Except, the law doesn't just prohibit carrying a firearm in a school when classes are in session. It specifically prohibits:

    B. If any person possesses any firearm designed or intended to expel a projectile by action of an explosion of a combustible material while such person is upon (i) any public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school, including buildings and grounds; (ii) that portion of any property open to the public and then exclusively used for school-sponsored functions or extracurricular activities while such functions or activities are taking place; or (iii) any school bus owned or operated by any such school, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.
    The wording here makes it clear that it isn't just referring to the school as a gathering of people in an educational setting (as would apply in (ii)), but also the physical building and grounds commonly used for that purpose, or the organization that provides such services (and any property that said organization owns or uses for that purpose).

    Even if part of the building is being used as a polling place, it is still part of the "buildings and grounds" of a "public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school", and so carry would be prohibited.
    You're missing his point. If a school is merely the collection of those engaged in school-type activities, then by that same definition, the buildings and grounds are only defined to be "school buildings and grounds" during the times that they are being used for that purpose. This viewpoint is not inconsistent with the wording of the law you quote, but rather it flows through to the definition of buildings and grounds as well.

    As he said, it's similar to the definition of Courtroom. It's only a courtroom when court is meeting in the room.

    He acknowledged that there does not yet exist a case precedent for that point of view, but I agree that with the right case and enough money, it could eventually be so. It just requires the completion of the required set of logical steps in front of the right judges.

    TFred

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    Quote Originally Posted by TFred View Post
    You're missing his point. If a school is merely the collection of those engaged in school-type activities, then by that same definition, the buildings and grounds are only defined to be "school buildings and grounds" during the times that they are being used for that purpose. This viewpoint is not inconsistent with the wording of the law you quote, but rather it flows through to the definition of buildings and grounds as well.

    As he said, it's similar to the definition of Courtroom. It's only a courtroom when court is meeting in the room.

    He acknowledged that there does not yet exist a case precedent for that point of view, but I agree that with the right case and enough money, it could eventually be so. It just requires the completion of the required set of logical steps in front of the right judges.

    TFred
    I would say that those arguments are unrealistic and projecting what you want the law to be instead of what is the more likely outcome.

    They specifically created two different sections to deal with (i) school property, and (ii) property exclusively used for school purposes. If your interpretation is correct, then why did they bother with (i) at all? Section (ii) would cover a "school" building when school is in session. Section (i) only makes sense if it is meant to refer to the buildings and grounds commonly used by school organizations.

    As many people (including you) have pointed out, laws are supposed to be read so that every word has meaning. The only way the law actually makes sense without making section (i) redundant is if it is referring to buildings and grounds even when they are not being used for school-sponsored activities (including school).

    Moreover, as section (iii) refers to buses owned by the school, without a restriction on whether they are actually in use at the time, it makes no sense for school buses to be prohibited at all times but other school property (i.e. buildings and grounds) to only be prohibited some of the time.

    If we want to make school carry legal, then we need to get the law itself changed or repealed through the legislative process. The courts aren't going to overturn it based on what is clearly not the intended, plain-text meaning.
    Alma 43:47 - "And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed...."
    Self defense isn't just a good idea, it's a commandment.

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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grylnsmn View Post
    The courts aren't going to overturn it based on what is clearly not the intended, plain-text meaning.
    Your points are valid, but I disagree with this last sentence. It's happened before, and it will happen again. I wouldn't complain if it happens in our favor once in a while.

    TFred

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    Quote Originally Posted by TFred View Post
    Your points are valid, but I disagree with this last sentence. It's happened before, and it will happen again. I wouldn't complain if it happens in our favor once in a while.

    TFred
    It may have happened before, but with the current Virginia Supreme Court? Not a chance.

    It's good to have hope, but in this case it would only be an illusion.
    Alma 43:47 - "And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed...."
    Self defense isn't just a good idea, it's a commandment.

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    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Is this thread going off-topic in the Virginia forum? What?!?!? Thanks for the responses so far. I am still doing my research and will keep you all updated.
    Last edited by thebigsd; 10-12-2011 at 06:45 PM.
    "When seconds count between living or dying, the police are only minutes away."

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    Regular Member ProShooter's Avatar
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    I really wish that SBE implemented the changes that I wrote. I spent alot of time on that.

    Didn't even get a "thanks but no thanks".
    James Reynolds

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    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ProShooter View Post
    I really wish that SBE implemented the changes that I wrote. I spent alot of time on that.

    Didn't even get a "thanks but no thanks".
    I wish they did too. Did you ever try to follow up with them?
    "When seconds count between living or dying, the police are only minutes away."

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    Regular Member ProShooter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebigsd View Post
    I wish they did too. Did you ever try to follow up with them?
    I tried to follow up "unofficially" but then my contact left the agency.
    James Reynolds

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    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    So I dug this thread out of the gutter so I could update it.

    I have read everything I can find and I haven't found anything that would prohibit me from carrying while serving as an election officer.

    Today, I went to the Fairfax County Government Center to attend the mandatory training session. I was OCing as usual, no issues. I did find it interesting when I got the list of officers serving at my precinct. Election officers in Fairfax County are required to select a political party to represent. My list had 6 Democrats and only two Republicans (including myself). So open carrying should be pretty fun considering the liberals will have to keep their mouths shut since election officers are prohibited from discussing politics. Typically the breakdown are pretty even so it kind of surprised me.

    I am meeting the Chief Election Officer at our precinct on Saturday. I will be open carrying and will gauge how he reacts.

    At this point I am 95% sure that I will OC on election day. I will keep everybody updated.
    "When seconds count between living or dying, the police are only minutes away."

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    Founder's Club Member - Moderator ed's Avatar
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    A digital recorder is your friend. ;-)
    Carry On.

    Ed

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    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ed View Post
    A digital recorder is your friend. ;-)
    Yep, I carry one all the time. Election day will be no exception.
    "When seconds count between living or dying, the police are only minutes away."

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    Regular Member wylde007's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Quote Originally Posted by thebigsd View Post
    Election officers in Fairfax County are required to select a political party to represent.
    Fair and balanced, eh?

    I would expect that election officers ANYWHERE should foreswear any party allegiances in their duties as impartial and unbiased proctors of an open election.

    Such a demand strikes me as antithetical to the election process.
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    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wylde007 View Post
    Fair and balanced, eh?

    I would expect that election officers ANYWHERE should foreswear any party allegiances in their duties as impartial and unbiased proctors of an open election.

    Such a demand strikes me as antithetical to the election process.
    Yea, I think along the same lines as you. The reasoning as explained to me when I questioned it was so that they could say they were being fair by having a representative from each of the political parties. The chief is always one party, the assistant chief is always the other party. It does bug me that there are only two parties to choose from, Republican or Democrat. I guess they haven't heard
    of the other parties out there.

    You do have to have to sign and say the oath below.

    I, _______________________,do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent upon me as an Officer of Election of Fairfax County according to the best of my ability (so help me God).
    Last edited by thebigsd; 11-01-2011 at 03:00 PM.
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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    The custom of election officials being representatives of the political parties comes from the time when members of each party did not trust the members of the other party to behave honestly, fairly, and impartially. It was thought that if a member of each political party was present they could both look out for their party's interests and keep watch to see that the guy(s) from the other party did not do anything underhanded.

    Now if you could find some folks who are completely disinterested in the outcome of the election - say someone from a UN country like France*? - to observe the election maybe we could see how that works. What's that? You say you already know how those UN-observed elections work out?

    OK, I'm headed back to the drawing board to see if I can come up with a better idea. Just don't count on my announcing it in time for the upcoming election because as horrible as the current system is it seems a whole lot better than any of the alternatives.

    stay safe.

    *I'm really not trying to pick on the French. Just about any UN country would do - how about Iran? Or The People's Democratic Republic of <insert name here>?
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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    This isn't virgin territory SD, but I have to give you a big hand.
    Proshooter gave his input to the election board and they just pretended not to hear.
    You're walking the walk and no matter how it turns out, you gave it your best.

    Good luck with this!

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    Quote Originally Posted by thebigsd View Post
    Election officers in Fairfax County are required to select a political party to represent.
    This is not the whole story, the only acceptable picks are D and R, other parties need not apply. Also, I think this is Commonwealth-wide.

    And good luck to sd.
    Last edited by architect; 11-01-2011 at 08:15 PM.

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    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by architect View Post
    This is not the whole story, the only acceptable picks are D and R, other parties need not apply. Also, I think this is Commonwealth-wide.

    And good luck to sd.
    You are correct. I did clarify myself in post #19. Thanks for the good luck.

    Peter, thanks for your kind words. I greatly appreciate them.

    Now for the update. On Saturday Nov. 5th I met the chief election officer at the polling place. I was carrying a full-size Springfield XD-45 in a Serpa holster. I am pleased to report that the topic of my gun was never brought up and the individual seemed completely unphased by it. I am now 100% for sure going to carry on Election Day. Thanks everybody for all of the advice!
    "When seconds count between living or dying, the police are only minutes away."

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    Regular Member ProShooter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skidmark View Post
    Or The People's Democratic Republic of <insert name here>?
    Maryland?
    James Reynolds

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    Regular Member Baked on Grease's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebigsd View Post
    You are correct. I did clarify myself in post #19. Thanks for the good luck.

    Peter, thanks for your kind words. I greatly appreciate them.

    Now for the update. On Saturday Nov. 5th I met the chief election officer at the polling place. I was carrying a full-size Springfield XD-45 in a Serpa holster. I am pleased to report that the topic of my gun was never brought up and the individual seemed completely unphased by it. I am now 100% for sure going to carry on Election Day. Thanks everybody for all of the advice!
    Good luck to you. Extra credit question: if you are forced to choose a side, are they forcing you represent also? As in, wear a pin/sticker or some such to party affiliation?

    On a different note, I imagine you'll be sitting down for most of your duties so most people will never even have the opportunity to see your "little" friend. I've been thinking of upgrading my XDm 9 to a 45 for carry. Gun show soon... Maybe I will.

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