The city of Pharr approved an ordinance that limits electioneering at polling locations throughout town.
The first reading of the ordinance was introduced by Interim City Manager Edward M. Wylie during the Sept. 8 city commissioners meeting. During that meeting, Wylie suggested regulating election activity for the sake of keeping order.
Other officials sought to stamp out voter intimidation and to encourage greater participation at the polls.
The measure was approved earlier this month and has been put into practice at Pharr polling locations since the start of early voting.
“The law says that we cannot stop electioneering, which is the right of the people to push who they want to vote for, but we can control it,” Wylie said during the meeting. “We can regulate time, place and manner. We want to make it a little more orderly in the city of Pharr. So once you get on city property, i.e. the parking lot, once you drive into the parking lot, electioneering cannot happen. They can electioneer on the sidewalk, which is a public right of way. Pretty much that’s where they can do it.”
Wylie clarified the ordinance for Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, explaining that voters will no longer be approached by political supporters of candidates in the parking lots of polling locations with political cards or pamphlets.
“Once you get into the parking lot, it’s a safe zone,” Wylie said.
Supporters of candidates will still be allowed to set up tents and canopies at polling sites throughout the city, but they will be designated to certain areas away from the parking lots.
Place 2 Commissioner Roberto “Bobby” Carrillo made a motion to approve the first reading of the ordinance, and Place 3 Commissioner Ramiro Caballero seconded the motion before it was unanimously approved.
The second reading of the ordinance took place during the Sep. 21 city commissioners meeting.
At that time, Place 1 Commissioner Eleazar Guajardo said that he had been contacted by numerous constituents who were concerned about the new ordinance.
“The main reason and purpose of this resolution is basically to allow our citizens to have a better experience when they go and participate in the electoral process,” Guajardo said during the meeting. “It has been traditional — not only here in the city of Pharr, but in many places around the Valley — where people can approach the potential voter with material. A lot of these people feel intimidated, they feel uncomfortable, they don’t want to be bothered.”
He said that the purpose of the resolution is to make the voting experience in Pharr more a more comfortable experience for voters.
“We’re trying to increase the participation of our citizens, and this is one way to do it,” Guajardo said.
Wylie echoed Guajardo’s sentiments, adding that the ordinance is intended to protect the public.
“We have a great safety concern,” Wylie said. “When you do show up to vote, people bombard your vehicle. They catch you when you’re coming in, they catch you when you’re driving in. We’ve had some near misses where people have almost been hit and run over. We wanted to eliminate that for the safety of the public, the people out there voting, and all of our residents.”
Carrillo made the motion to approve the second reading of the ordinance, and Place 4 Commissioner Daniel Chavez seconded his motion. The motion was again approved unanimously.
The third and final reading of the ordinance took place at the Oct. 5 commission meeting, where it was unanimously approved, and went into effect immediately.