Can I Wear My Obama T-shirt to Vote on Election Day?

From The Root:

Oct. 2, 2008–An ominous e-mail has been causing quite a bit of confusion for voters recently. With an urgent warning to recipients, the e-mail claimsthat election officials have the right to turn away any voters wearing campaign paraphernalia to the polls. So what’s up? Can you rock that “Obama Mama” T-shirt to cast your vote on Nov. 4?

In most states, you’re in the clear. Wearing campaign paraphernalia—a button, a sticker and, of course, a T-shirt—in support of any candidate is seen as passive electioneering. Some states are more lenient. In Kentucky, Marylandand Florida, election officials most often make no fuss about voter attire. The only thing banned there is the display of excessive campaign garb (i.e. head-to-toe Obama gear) or outright solicitation. Wearing campaign paraphernalia and lingering in the polling station is also a no-no in those states.

Other states, such as Pennsylvaniaand New York, maintain laws on passive electioneering while remaining lax in enforcement. In New York, for example, refusing to comply with the request of election officials to remove an item is considered a misdemeanor, but arrests have rarely—if ever—been made.

Not everyone is as laid-back about the issue. In the District of Columbia, strict rules apply. Prior to entering a polling station in the District, everyone is required to remove or cover up any exposed campaign paraphernalia. No exceptions.

Comments

5 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Arizona – no campaign shirts, buttons, etc with 75 feet of polling entrance. Applies to everybody.

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  2. DCist posted a warning about this because the district is strict about it. Then they added at the bottom that everyone should check their state laws, and urged discretion for all. That post got picked up by all the aggregators and the headline read “Don’t wear your Obama shirt to the polls!” without mentioning the district. So no wonder people are emailing and forwarding the warning.

    The power of the internet.

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  3. Ben,

    It’s not allowed up here in Canada. I once wore a candidate’s pin to the polls and was asked to take it off.

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  4. When I lived in Texas, I don’t recall any rules about the voters not being allowed to dress for their candidates. Only those who worked at the polling stations were required to be dressed impartially.

    And they were always really high-spirited in a great bi-partisan way, darn glad to see people voting and being engaged. After you voted, they’d give you a sticker and tell you to put it on and let everybody know you’re a real American. Just little stuff like that.

    Now that I live in Washington state, it’s all mail-in ballots done at home.

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  5. Mia,

    This whole matter varies from state to state. In Florida, YES, IT IS LEGAL to wear a political shirt or button when you vote and drive to the polls in a car that has a s political sticker on it, but you must stay a certain distance from voters if you want to wave signs and actively campaign.

    BUT BE FOREWARNED… People who don’t know the law may confront you. I voted early yesterday in Boca Raton (at the library on Glades Road) and one woman tried to get in my face and be nasty. My husband and I yelled back at her and stood our ground. I’m pretty tough, but others may get rattled by a situation like that.

    Do whatever makes you comfortable as long as it’s legal, but remember THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO GET OUT THERE AND VOTE!!!!

    DO NOT ASSUME THAT WE HAVE ALREADY WON THIS THING!!!! YOU MUST VOTE AND GET OTHERS TO VOTE, AS WELL… DRIVE THEM TO THE POLLS IF YOU HAVE TO!!!

    WE NEED EVERY VOTE WE CAN GET!!! GO OBAMA!!!

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