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To keep elections civil, the Board of Elections and Ethics pioneers a visual medium.
The District’s Board of Elections and Ethics is not known for its artistic soul. It is in the business of accounting and list-keeping, dedicated to the nuts and bolts of election law. Yet amid all the campaign-finance disclosure forms and petition-verification hearings, the board has made at least one venture into aesthetic expression.
On the board’s Web site, www.dcboee.org, there’s a link for “Candidate Information.” That leads to a passel of other links, instructing potential mayors and councilmembers about how to declare candidacy, gather signatures, and take the other necessary steps to run for office.
But one link, “Electioneering Guidance for Candidates and Their Campaign Workers,” leads to more than a mere chart. To explain the rule that workers can’t campaign within 50 feet of a polling station, the elections board has chosen to use a four-panel cartoon.
The work is of uncertain provenance. Board of Elections and Ethics spokesperson Bill O’Field says that it was created by board staff and may even predate the Web site, perhaps having been used in poll-worker training documents. “It’s hard for me to say who exactly did it, because we work as a team here,” O’Field says. He says he thinks that “the people who worked on it are no longer here.”
Art historians may classify the cartoon as an early example of the clip-art art movement, in which artists add dialogue to scenes found in, or created from, public-domain computer images—yielding a hybrid of playwriting and collage.
Its relationship to election law is less clear. Under the relevant regulations, 3 DCMR Sec. 708, the only penalty specified for coming too close to a polling station is eviction. But the cartoon shows a policeman throwing a scofflaw in jail. In real life, says Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Joe Gentile, “The officer in all probability would advise the man he’s within 50 feet,” and would arrest him only if he refused to move. CP