SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) — Some Saline County voters complained that they witnessed the crime of electioneering near a polling place in Salina during the primary election. By early Tuesday afternoon, police had cited a Salina lawyer in the case. And, by late afternoon, police had a search warrant and removed the lawyer’s political signs from his business.
Kansas law prohibits electioneering, including political signs, hats, shirts, and buttons, within 250 feet of a polling place. The law does not include bumper stickers on voters’ vehicles.
The Reynolds Law Office, 301 N. Ninth, in Salina, is across the street from the polling site in the McKenzie Center, 308 W. Elm. According to Google Maps, the two buildings are within 250 feet of each other.
The law office had political signs in favor of the constitutional amendment on abortion. One of the signs is spray painted on the side of the building.
Lawyer John Reynolds told KSN News that the signs were on private property and expressed his personal opinion.
“I have every right in the world to express my personal opinion,” Reynolds said. “It’s what the First Amendment is all about.”
He also said that case law is on his side. But City and County officials disagreed with him.
Saline County Election Officer Jamie Doss said she spoke to the Reynolds Law Office after she became aware of the issue.
“I have called the location, and they stated they will not remove them because they are on private property,” Doss said. “I informed voters they can contact law enforcement because it is a Class C Misdemeanor.”
Captain Paul Forrester with the Salina Police Department said the officers who investigated did not take action immediately because they were waiting for an interpretation of the law from the county attorney.
By 1 p.m., Forrester told KSN News that he had conferred with City and County prosecutors.
“They are in agreement that there is a violation of the electioneering statute,” Forrester said. “We are in the process of educating the persons in violation of this statute in hopes of voluntary compliance. If we cannot gain voluntary compliance, the violators will be cited for the violation and sent to prosecution.”
We called Reynolds again. He said police cited him for electioneering signs within 250 feet of a polling place.
“If they show up with a search warrant to take the signs, I’m going to ask them to measure them off first,” he said.
Reynolds said he put the political signs up at this office months ago.
“The electioneering is to prevent people from accosting voters going into the polling place. We are not doing that. We are just sitting here in our office like we have for the last few months,” he said.
Reynolds said the McKenzie Center is a relatively new polling place for Saline County, and this is not the first time authorities have contacted him.
“We went through this last fall with a local ordinance and a vote,” he said. “I got a call from the county election office as well as the county counselor, and I told them both that this doesn’t apply. That was the last I ever heard out of it.”
Around 4 p.m., police showed up at the Reynolds Law Office with a search warrant. A witness said the police measured the distance between the office and the polling site, then began removing the political signs.
Linda Reynolds, John Reynolds’ wife, said police took every political sign in and outside the building, except for the sign that is spray painted on the side of the building.
KSN News reached out to Saline County Attorney Jeffery Ebel. He said he cannot comment regarding if there is a violation or not.
“Once the issue is fully investigated, the normal course of action would be for an affidavit or citation to be issued if the investigating agency feels there is probable cause a crime has been committed,” Ebel said. “If I receive that documentation, then I will review it and determine if any violations have occurred.”
Whitney Tempel, the communications director for the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, said, “County election offices are encouraged to notify law enforcement if there is a violation of the criminal electioneering statute.”
Previously, the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office said that if you experience or witness any electioneering, please contact your county election office or the state elections division at 785-296-4561.