Portland City Councilor At-Large Pious Ali went live on Facebook outside Portland City Hall on Election Day, and may have inadvertently broadcast himself violating state laws against electioneering near a polling location.
As Councilor Ali walked outside of a side entrance to City Hall, an off-camera man asks him what he is doing, and Ali tells the man that he is telling people how to vote on that day’s ballot questions.
In the video, Ali appeared to be instructing voters at City Hall how to vote on two ballot questions, even seeming to acknowledge during the stream that campaigning close to the polling location was prohibited.
Portland area social media users drew attention to Ali’s livestream, but Ali told the Maine Wire in a phone interview that the suggestion he violated Maine’s electioneering laws was incorrect.
“So, I’m telling people to vote yes on the school board,” Ali says to the man off-camera.
“Oops, did I just campaign?” Ali says. “No, he was asking me what to vote…he’s from my community, and I said yes on the school budget and no on…[inaudible]…Question A.”
Ali said in a phone interview on Friday that the off-camera man was from the migrant community, and was asking what Ali was doing recording himself.
Ali said that he was not telling the off-camera man himself how to vote, but rather informing him that he was telling the listeners on his livestream how to respond to that day’s ballot questions.
Ali said that what he did was not in violation of any laws, and that if you listen to exactly what he said it is clear he is not telling the off-camera man himself how to vote on the ballot questions.
Under Maine state law, it is illegal to influence or attempt to influence another person’s voting decisions within a polling location or within 250 of a public property where votes are being cast.
Violating the law against electioneering near polling locations is a Class E crime, punishable by up to six months incarceration and a $1,000 fine.
Some Portland residents alleged in social media comments that Ali’s live-streamed comments broke the rules.
However, it is unclear from the video if the City Councilor was within 250 feet of the main entrance to City Hall when the interaction occurred, which appears to have happened on Myrtle Street near the entrance to Merrill Auditorium.