FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10/17/2014
NEW LAW PROTECTS FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS
CARROLLTON – House Bill 259, signed into law by Governor Perry after the 2013 Legislative Session, protects the First Amendment rights of individuals engaged in political speech. Specifically, HB 259 clarifies that electioneering (political speech) must be allowed at polling places. The bill prohibits an entity that owns or controls a public building being used as a polling place from prohibiting electioneering on the building's premises outside of the 100-foot zone where electioneering is prohibited by state law.
“This change in law protects First Amendment rights by assuring that people are able to express their political views without fear of prosecution or persecution,” said Representative Ron Simmons, the author of House Bill 259.
Texas law prohibits electioneering and loitering within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling location on election day (including early voting). But prior to the passage of HB 259, the law did not address the regulation of electioneering outside of this 100 foot zone. This left the door open for municipalities to pass unreasonable ordinances that, in some cases, led to individuals being arrested for acts such as simply holding a campaign sign.
“Language was specifically included in the bill to authorize reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on electioneering conducted outside of the 100-foot marker, so long as electioneering is not prohibited altogether. The key is reasonable. I would hope that a polling location would not try to misapply this law by unreasonably restricting political speech including political signs,” said Simmons. “HB 259 protects some of our nation’s most fundamental rights: the freedom of speech and the right to vote.”
House Bill 259 applies to both election day and the early voting period. Early voting for the 2014 General Election starts across the state on Monday, October 20th.