If people used objective criteria to judge Bloominton city attoney Sandra Johnson, it’s hard to imaging them not concluding that she’s on an anti-First Amendment crusade, at least as it pertains to the proposed Photo ID constitutional amendment:
ProtectMyVote.com’s chairman, Dan McGrath took a phone call from the Bloomington city clerk, who explained that there was an active polling place for absentee balloting in City Hall. Knowing that state statute prohibits political signs within 100 feet of a polling place, McGrath assured her that the campaign would observe and respect the 100’ rule, even though the polling place and city hall would be closed by the time the campaign was scheduled to be there. The city clerk wasn’t satisfied. She went on to explain that the city of Bloomington didn’t want the ProtectMyVote.com campaign on city property at all, regardless of the polling place regulations.
McGrath wasn’t looking for a fight. “Not a problem. I’ll let the driver know and we’ll park near City Hall, off the grounds, instead,” he told her. McGrath thought that was the end of it.
On Thursday, McGrath received an email and a letter by post from Bloomington city attorney, Sandra Johnson that went to some lengths to attempt some legal justification for keeping ProtectMyVote.com off of public property.
McGrath responded to the email assuring Johnson that the campaign would stay off city property and that there was no need to spend time and effort on justifying her position.
Had Johnson stopped once she was satisfied that the 100′ law wouldn’t be broken, this wouldn’t have become a big deal. (The 100′ rule is essential in preventing electioneering.)It’s too late to prevent it from becoming a big deal in Minnesota now that Ms. Johnson belabored the point:
Johnson pressed on, next demanding that McGrath provide the city attorney with the precise location the ProtectMyVote.com van would park and proof that the property owner gave permission for the campaign to be there. After McGrath reminded her that citizens don’t have an obligation to prove they aren’t doing anything wrong to the government, she made further demands and threatened police involvement. “There will be no trouble so long as your group does not use city property (and that includes the right of way and sidewalks) for your campaign. And that you only use private property with permission,” she wrote.
Other than the 100′ rule, Ms. Johnson can’t cite a specific statute or ordinance pertaining to the use of public property. By contrast, Mr. McGrath’s actions stayed within the letter of the law throughout this controversy. He clearly stated that his organization would comply with state law by complying with the 100′ rule. His organization then complied with all applicable laws.
With those concerns eliminated, Ms. Johnson didn’t have a legal reason for her persistent inquiries. That leaves only political reasons for her inquiries. It’s naive to think that city attorneys aren’t political creatures. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that her political activities run contrary to the Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights.