Attorney General: Use of bullhorns outside polling sites OK

The attorney general issued an opinion Friday that it is OK to use a bullhorn for electioneering near — but not within — the restricted areas outside polling places.

The opinion was sought by Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter after questions arose in June about supporters of then-county judge candidate Ivan Whitfield using a bullhorn outside the Jefferson County Courthouse while it was serving as a polling place during the runoff election.

Hunter’s question cited Arkansas Code Annotated 7-1-103(9), which prohibits “electioneering of any kind whatsoever within 100 feet of the primary exterior entrance used by voters to the building.”

“Suppose someone stands outside the 100-foot zone and shouts or uses a sound amplifier (e.g., a bull horn or megaphone) to ask voters to support a certain candidate?” Hunter stated in his request. “Does subsection 7-1-103(9) prohibit such activity?”

The following is the full text of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s response:

“No, in my opinion. This statute prohibits the conjunction of two things: (1) ‘electioneering of any kind whatsoever’ (2) that is done within a certain distance from the primary exterior entrance used by voters at a polling place. The activity you describe clearly meets the first element, but does not meet the second.

“This statute simply does not prohibit electioneering that occurs outside the 100-foot zone. I understand that the speakers’ voices are carrying over into the prohibited area. But if the legislature intended to prohibit certain activities outside the 100-foot zone, then, like some other states’ legislatures, it could have easily done so.”

Hunter said in June that he believed the use of the bullhorn did violate the 100-foot rule, but he was unaware of specific laws on the matter. Hunter gave his opinion and sought the attorney general’s opinion at the request of the Jefferson County Election Commission, which reported at the time that they had received two complaints about the use of the bullhorn.

Whitfield is deputy police chief with the Pine Bluff Police Department. He lost his runoff bid to be the Democratic county judge candidate to Dutch King, who will face Republican Ted Harden in the Nov. 6 general election.