Was John Catsimatidis Breaking the Law by Being at My Polling Place?

John Catsmiatidis mayoral campaign truck Brooklyn
  • John Catsimatidis’s campaign truck. The cross on the right marks the church that served as a polling place. The entrance is flanked by signs forbidding electioneering.

When I got to my polling place on Ridge Boulevard in Bay Ridge this afternoon, I did so right as John Catsimatidis did, flanked by about a dozen white guys in casual and professional business attire. “Well,” I thought, “what a coincidence that we’re going to vote at the same time.” Except we weren’t going to vote at the same time! The Republican mayoral candidate lives, by his own admission, “On Fifth Avenue [in Manhattan] in the 60s, in a condo. I’ve been living there since my second marriage [in 1988].” But his tour bus definitely parked out front of the church between 73rd and 74th streets, where the residents of several election districts were voting today, to meet and greet with a Who’s Who of local Republicans: State Senator Marty Golden was inside, as was borough Republican Chairman Craig Eaton.

The dictionary defines electioneering as “a politician or political campaigner taking part actively and energetically in the activities of an election campaign.” And New York State law states that “while the polls are open no person shall do any electioneering within the polling place.” Does a politician’s mere presence constitute electioneering? The police officer watching the whole scene apparently didn’t think so, and I’m no lawyer. But electioneering is also not allowed “within one hundred feet therefrom in any public street, or within such distance in any place in a public manner.” That is, “no banner, poster or placard on behalf of… any candidate… shall be allowed… within one hundred feet therefrom during the election.” Certainly parking your rockstar-sized campaign bus emblazoned with your name directly across the street, within the 100-feet boundary, is a blatant violation of the law?

The young man handing out Republican leaflets—I could tell because they were RED—outside the polling place also seemed directly in violation of the anti-electioneering law. Except I couldn’t nail him because he scurried away every time he saw me, presumably because he could tell by my eyes, glaring at him from behind (lefty-signifying) thick-rimmed glasses, that I wasn’t sympathetic.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter at @henrycstewart

John Catsamitidis mayoral race Brooklyn
  • John Catsimatidis with Marty Golden inside my polling place (real out of focus… sorry! I was signing in simultaneously…)