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Despite having twice given permission to a troop of Boy Scouts to place their donation boxes for soldiers serving in Iraq, election officials in the city of Cambridge, Mass., have ordered them removed after receiving a single complaint about their “pro-war” message.
Marsha Weinerman, executive director of the city’s Election Commission, told the Cambridge Chronicle she had contacted the legal department and it was decided removing the donation boxes from 33 polling locations would be the best way to deal with the complaint.
Weinerman’s legal basis for removing the boxes rested on a Massachusetts law prohibiting political messages within 150 feet of a polling station while an election is being conducted. The Scouts were not authorized to place their boxes within the boundary, Weinerman said – a claim the Scouts dispute.
According to the Chronicle, a spokesperson for Secretary of State William Galvin’s office said Weinerman’s interpretation of the law was flawed and that no law prohibited anyone from delivering unrelated political messages inside the restricted zone.
“We have never seen anything like this decision in Cambridge before,” troop leader Jamisean Patterson wrote in a Chronicle column. “The city is changing for the worse if decisions like this are allowed to be made. This was not supporting the war or any politician or political view.”
When word of the city’s action reached members of the 181st Infantry stationed in Iraq, Boston’s Fox affiliate WFXT-TV reported, “They were not happy.”