§ 24.2-604 Prohibited activities at polls; notice of prohibited area; electioneering; presence of representatives of parties or candidates; simulated elections; observers; news media; penalties
Overview of Statute
This section lists activities that are prohibited while polls are open and ballots are being counted. It also provides for notice of the prohibited area and representatives of both political parties to remain in the room where the election is being conducted at all times. No person may hinder a voter or try to influence a voter at the polls. This section also provides for a special election day program for high school students that may be conducted by a local electoral board. Finally, this section prescribes rules for news media on election day.
A. During the times the polls are open and ballots are being counted, it is unlawful for any person (i) to loiter or congregate within 40 feet of any entrance of any polling place; (ii) within such distance to give, tender, or exhibit any ballot, ticket, or other campaign material to any person or to solicit or in any manner attempt to influence any person in casting his vote; or (iii) to hinder or delay a qualified voter in entering or leaving a polling place.
B. Prior to opening the polls, the officers of election shall post, in the area within 40 feet of any entrance to the polling place, sufficient notices which state “Prohibited Area” in two-inch type. The notices shall also state the provisions of this section in not less than 24-point type. The officers of election shall post the notices within the prohibited area to be visible to voters and the public.
C. It is unlawful for any authorized representative permitted in the polling place pursuant to § 24.2-604.4, any voter, or any other person in the room to (i) hinder or delay a qualified voter; (ii) give, tender, or exhibit any ballot, ticket, or other campaign material to any person; (iii) solicit or in any manner attempt to influence any person in casting his vote; (iv) hinder or delay any officer of election; (v) be in a position to see the marked ballot of any other voter; or (vi) otherwise impede the orderly conduct of the election.
D. The provisions of subsections A and C shall not be construed to prohibit a person who approaches or enters the polling place for the purpose of voting from wearing a shirt, hat, or other apparel on which a candidate’s name or a political slogan appears or from having a sticker or button attached to his apparel on which a candidate’s name or a political slogan appears. This exemption shall not apply to candidates, representatives of candidates, or any other person who approaches or enters the polling place for any purpose other than voting.
E. This section shall not be construed to prohibit a candidate from entering any polling place on the day of the election to vote, or to visit a polling place for no longer than 10 minutes per polling place per election day, provided that he complies with the restrictions stated in subsections A, C, and D.
F. The officers of election may require any person who is found by a majority of the officers present to be in violation of this section to remain outside of the prohibited area. Any person violating subsection A or C is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Code 1950, §§ 24-186, 24-188; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-101; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 119; 1973, c. 30; 1974, c. 428; 1975, c. 515; 1984, c. 480; 1993, cc. 413, 641; 1997, c. 328; 2000, cc. 215, 268; 2003, c. 1015; 2007, c. 672; 2009, cc. 396, 494, 865, 870, 874; 2010, cc. 448, 707; 2012, cc. 754, 826; 2015, cc. 133, 575; 2016, cc. 15, 18, 491, 492; 2018, c. 700; 2020, c. 561.
- Regulation of Polling Places
- Regulation of Electioneering at Polling Places
- Election Day
- Poll Watching
- Voter conduct regulations
This statute was amended in 2012 by HB 319/SB 537 to specify that observers may be close enough to the voter check-in table to hear what is occurring, but that observation shall not violate the secret vote or otherwise interfere with the election.
This text was added by Virginia HB 1333 in 2015 to specify that the state or district chairman may designate authorized representatives of political parties if the county or city chairman is unavailable to do so.
For recent article on how poll-watching can go too far and lead to intimidation and harassment, see http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/08/poll-election-monitor-challengers-vote-laws-watchers-214189.
Recent Attorney General opinion clarified that ballot selfies are permitted under Virginia statutes. See http://ag.virginia.gov/files/Opinions/2016/16-038_Bell_Lind_issued.pdf.
Advisory opinion recently clarified that Virginia law does not prohibit an individual from divulging how he or she is voting. See http://ag.virginia.gov/files/Opinions/2016/16-038_Bell_Lind_issued.pdf.
1. Definition for Polling place
The structure that contains the one place provided for each precinct at which the qualified voters who are residents of the precinct may vote.
See § 24.2-101.
2. Definition for Qualified voter
A person who is entitled to vote pursuant to the Constitution of Virginia and who is (i) 18 years of age on or before the day of the election or qualified pursuant to § 24.2-403 or subsection D of § 24.2-544, (ii) a resident of the Commonwealth and of the precinct in which he offers to vote, and (iii) a registered voter. No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be a qualified voter unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority. No person adjudicated incapacitated shall be a qualified voter unless his capacity has been reestablished as provided by law. Whether a signature should be counted towards satisfying the signature requirement of any petition shall be determined based on the signer of the petition’s qualification to vote. For purposes of determining if a signature on a petition shall be included in the count toward meeting the signature requirements of any petition, “qualified voter” shall include only persons maintained on the Virginia voter registration system (a) with active status and (b) with inactive status who are qualified to vote for the office for which the petition was circulated.
See § 24.2-101.
3. Definition for Officer of election
A person appointed by an electoral board pursuant to § 24.2-115 to serve at a polling place for any election.
See § 24.2-101.
4. Definition for State
A state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
See § 24.2-452.
5. Definition for Person
Any individual or corporation, partnership, business, labor organization, membership organization, association, cooperative, or other like entity.
For the purpose of applying the filing and reporting requirements of this chapter, the term “person” shall not include an organization holding tax-exempt status under § 501(c) (3), 501(c) (4), or 501(c) (6) of the United States Internal Revenue Code which, in providing information to voters, does not advocate or endorse the election or defeat of a particular candidate, group of candidates, or the candidates of a particular political party.
See § 24.2-945.1.
6. Definition for Election
A general, primary, or special election.
See § 24.2-101.
7. Definition for Candidate
A person who seeks or campaigns for an office of the Commonwealth or one of its governmental units in a general, primary, or special election and who is qualified to have his name placed on the ballot for the office. “Candidate” shall include a person who seeks the nomination of a political party or who, by reason of receiving the nomination of a political party for election to an office, is referred to as its nominee. For the purposes of Chapters 8 (§ 24.2-800 et seq.), 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.), and 9.5 (§ 24.2-955 et seq.), “candidate” shall include any write-in candidate. However, no write-in candidate who has received less than 15 percent of the votes cast for the office shall be eligible to initiate an election contest pursuant to Article 2 (§ 24.2-803 et seq.) of Chapter 8. For the purposes of Chapters 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.) and 9.5 (§ 24.2-955 et seq.), “candidate” shall include any person who raises or spends funds in order to seek or campaign for an office of the Commonwealth, excluding federal offices, or one of its governmental units in a party nomination process or general, primary, or special election; and such person shall be considered a candidate until a final report is filed pursuant to Article 3 (§ 24.2-947 et seq.) of Chapter 9.3.
See § 24.2-101.
Regulations & Guidance
ELECT-604 Revised October 2017 ELECT-604-Prohibited-Area-and-Activities-poster-Rev-10-17-w-specs
ELECT-604 Revised July 2017 ELECT-604-Management-DosAndDontCampaignersAuthorizedRepresentatives
ELECT-604G Revised July 2017 ELECT-604G-Management-Guidelines-for-Campaigners-and-Authorized-Representatives-7-17