State Treasurer Terry Hayes filed suit this month to try to force the Secretary of State’s Office to let her independent gubernatorial campaign hand out campaign literature, talk to voters and solicit political contributions at Maine’s polling places during the June 12 primary.

The Hayes for Maine campaign asked a Kennebec County Superior Court to issue an injunction that would allow its volunteers to be present at the polls.

State law requires candidates to stay at least 250 feet from the polls in an effort to create a buffer zone for voters. What isn’t clear is whether Hayes, who is not on the primary ballot, counts as a candidate.

According to Hayes’ May 16 complaint, the Secretary of State’s Office has told her campaign on “multiple occasions” that it can’t maintain a presence at the polls because she’s a candidate in the general election.

Hayes contends the edict violates her First Amendment rights of expression, association and petitioning at polling places.

“The law is clear that Hayes’ supporters are not prohibited from engaging with the electorate at polling locations across Maine” during the primary “because Hayes is not a candidate on the ballot for the election that day,” said Hayes’ legal counsel, Newell Augur.

“This is the latest effort to stonewall Maine voters and it’s exactly why we need to elect Terry Hayes as Maine’s next governor,” Kaitlin LaCasse, deputy campaign manager for Hayes for Maine, said in a prepared statement.

In its legal claim, the Hayes campaign said it anticipates “a significant number of voters” at the polls “who will be there principally to vote on a nonpartisan statewide referendum” about ranked-choice voting.

But it is likely most voters also will be there to vote in the Democratic or Republican gubernatorial primaries. There is also a 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary that has attracted attention.

LaCasse said in a supporting document filed with the suit that the Hayes campaign was allowed last November to have tables at a dozen polling places “where campaign workers and volunteers distributed and displayed campaign material about Terry Hayes and collected $5 Clean Elections Act contributions” for her campaign.

She said she contacted the Secretary of State’s Office in April to let officials know they planned to do something similar during the primary.

But LaCasse said she was told by Julie Flynn, who oversees the elections division, that Hayes had to obey the buffer zone requirement because her campaign’s presence at the polls “would unduly influence voters casting ballots in the gubernatorial race.”

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has indicated in a May 16 memo to Augur that Hayes can try to collect $5 donations from voters who already have cast their ballots.

The state has not yet responded to Hayes’ request for an injunction that would allow the campaign to do more within the buffer zone.

In the general election, Hayes will face the winners of the GOP and Democratic gubernatorial primaries as well as fellow independent Alan Caron.

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