Bill Clinton Shouldn't Be Punished For Voting Behavior

| by Nicholas Roberts
Bill ClintonBill Clinton

Bill Clinton’s presence at polling places in Massachusetts during the state’s Super Tuesday primary may not have hurt his wife’s electoral prospects, but it certainly has enraged voters.

CNBC reported that a petition has begun circling around calling for Bill Clinton’s arrest, and over 45,000 people have signed it so far.

It definitely seems likely that the effects of such an action will likely bode worse for Hillary Clinton in the general election than she believes they will right now.  But officials have now stated that Mr. Clinton was not actually violating any electioneering laws, even if his conduct was ethically dubious.

Clinton reportedly visited various polling places, with notable stops in Boston, New Bedford and Newton. Poll workers at the Newton Free Library were apparently flabbergasted when Clinton showed up, the New York Times reported.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said in an interview: “We had to remind everybody what the rules are, that there is no campaigning within 150 feet of the voting booths because people are entitled to their privacy. And it’s not just him but his media entourage.”

Galvin has confirmed the state is unaware of any illegal activity engaged in by Mr. Clinton and his entourage, and the former president never explicitly handed out any materials supporting his wife while inside the legal boundaries of the various polling places.

The calls for prosecution are going a little too far in this case.  

The fact is while Hillary Clinton is now the solid Democratic front-runner in the race, her rival, Bernie Sanders, has amassed a campaign war-chest which can very realistically take him to the Democratic convention this summer. He has 35 states left to compete in regardless of media insistence that he and his supporters are done; this little stunt by Bill Clinton is more likely to alienate these voters come the general election than anyone else.

If Bill Clinton did not break any electioneering laws, which seems likely, many of those criticizing his actions view what he did as being at the legal and ethical limits of honest campaigning.

This should be on Hillary Clinton’s mind right now. She needs those voters to support her come the general election, and her husband’s conduct in Massachusetts makes it harder for her to get those votes.  

So it’s ultimately unclear what her husband hoped to gain from the whole episode. Clinton won Massachusetts — albeit not by a lot — but do we really believe Hillary Clinton’s victory over Sanders in the state by 15,000 votes had to do with anything Bill Clinton did? If not, then why was he there? Clinton’s campaign could have saved themselves the trouble, which was inevitably going to follow this action, by telling the former president to just not do it.

Massachusetts officials clarified that there is no basis for prosecution, so Mr. Clinton should not be formally punished with anything. His wife is going to be punished by people who would have potentially voted for her, however.

Sources: CNBC, New York Times / Photo credit: Flickr/Roger H. Goun

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