Question re: polling station rules.

My girlfriend was stopped when she entered a polling station in Ohio and told she wasn’t allowed wear her Obama t-shirt in the polling station. In order to vote she had to go to the bathrooms and turn the shirt inside out. What’s the deal with this? Is there a specific prohibition of partisan clothing in polling stations?

The prohibition is against “electioneering.”

This can be interpreted in various ways, and t-shirts or campaign buttons are sometimes considered electioneering. It’s up to state law and the judgment of the election officials.

Ah right, from the way she described it, the objectors would perhaps have let it go had she been wearing a McCain button or the like.

NPR said that California law does not allow candidate t-shirts at the polling place. For one, a large group with the same candidate endorsement could become an intimidating force if not unchecked and you were wearing clothes for the competition. We don’t want a arms race of wearable advertising at the polls.

It’s highly unlikely that this was a partisan thing, because that would lead to court cases and the like. It would be all t-shirts advertising a candidate, or anything (including campaign buttons) advertising a candidate. It may sound a bit extreme in some cases, but you have to draw the line somewhere, and active campaigning inside the polling place would be a pain in very many ways.

In New York, these kinds of restrictions are taken seriously.

There can be no campaign signs, pamphleteers, demonstrations, etc. within a certain radius of polling places.

They won’t let you inside if you’re wearing a candidate’s shirt, hat, button, etc.

Every year, one or two jackasses decides to make an issue out of this and ends up getting arrested.

It seems that only two of the people working there were objecting, quite vociferously and rudely too. The others weren’t too bothered one way or another. My GF perhaps wouldn’t have even mentioned it to me except the people weren’t polite about the rule.

From my expereince as a poll worker in Ohio, a McCain shirt would have been a no-no as well.

No shirts, hats, pins, buttons, flags, etc with in 100(?) of the polling place. The limit is usually marked with signs and small U.S. flags. Each polling place has at least one member of each of the two major parties. So, somebody would object either way.

Ah fair enough. Thanks for the information folks. I think she should complain because of the manner in which she was told it was a no-no but was worried that it might not have been a rule at all, just someone being a jerk.

Would an issue-bsed shirt pass muster?
“Abortion Stops a Beating Heart”
“NO! On Municipal Ballot Proposition 8!”

Our polling place has a small sign instructing us to remove any buttons or other paraphernalia as well.

As did ours, here in Minnesota.

I once forgot that I had a campaign button on my coat; I was asked to remove it until after I left, or to cover it up. This year, I heard an election judge tell someone wearing a campaign T-shirt to please keep he coat buttoned over it while in the polling place.

I believe they do this regardless of the campaign; we have election judges from both parties (and sometimes the Green party, too) at polling places.

Issue based items (like “Vote Yes for Kids”) were subject to the same rules.

We vote in the basement of a catholic church, and have to wait in line by a bulletin board on the wall of the lobby. In a previous election, there was a large anti-abortion voting poster (“Vote to protect the unborn who can’t vote”) on that bulletin board on Election Day. Some voters were upset, and went home after voting and called the City Clerk, who promptly called the workers there and told them to cover that bulletin board. Later she threatened the Church Council that if this happened again, she would move the polling place, and they would lose the rent the City paid for using it.

In the DC area there was a local office on the ballot and there was this big hue and cry because someone found, in a voting booth, a pencil with a candidate’s name printed on it. DC is at the extreme end of this prohibition.

I was a poll watcher in a New York City election site Tuesday, and they (and I) did enforce the rule pretty strictly. Most of the time, people knew the rule and would apologize for forgetting to remove the button (or cover up the T-shirt) when reminded.

There was one woman on line to vote who refused to remove her campaign button when I reminded her that they were not permitted in the polling place. I called the poll site supervisor over, who explained to the voter that the button was not permitted, and she would have to remove it. When the voter refused again, the supervisor said that if she did not take off the button, the supervisor would have to call over the site’s police officer who would have to remove her from the poll site. After a brief further protest, the voter removed the button and went on to vote with no further problem.

I was an election judge in Illinois, and we enforced that rule pretty strongly. No electioneering is allowed within 100 feet of the entrance to the polling place – that means signage, pamphlets, buttons, t-shirts, etc.

We actually removed signs that were too close, and we chased away a person handing out leaflets (politely, they had to move to beyond the 100-foot marker.) We had several people coming in wearing buttons that we asked them to remove as they entered the polling place, and this applied to any candidate. (There was one mother with a toddler wearing a “Babies for Obama” shirt, and we let that go because it would have been major hassle for her to take the baby to the bathroom and turn the shirt inside-out – she had her hands full anyway. And the polling place was empty, we might have required the change if there was anyone else around. We compromised with her holding the baby against her, so the shirt didn’t show.)

We also prohibited any discussion or mention of candidates by name. Someone was talking about the recent death of Illinois senator Dick Durbin’s daughter, and one of the judges shushed them since Durbin was on the ballot, up for re-election.

Sometimes, it is astonishing how they enforce it.

A few years ago, my City Council member went into a polling place on Election Day, shook hands with the poll workers, and thanked them for their work. No campaign flyers or t-shirts, never spoke to any voters, never talked about who to vote for, just thanked the election judges.

There was a complaint filed, seeking to invalidate the whole election and force a new one over this, and she was hauled into Court to defend her actions. But this was filed by the losing candidate, not the election officials.

This must be a Sac County thing because evidently it isn’t state-wide, but here they give you a modified paper gown, something like what you get at your doc’s office, to cover up t-shirt messages.

I don’t remember seeing any signs warning voters to remove partisan items, but might have missed it. Local news did a good job of warning voters beforehand.

This is good to know, because I didn’t realize it. This year is probably the first year in my life that there might have been a chance that I was wearing a candidate T-shirt, but I was too cheap to buy one. I knew that there was a rule against electioneering, but I hadn’t even thought that a T-shirt would be an issue. It makes sense though, but I’ve been voting absentee the last couple of cycles and it’s pretty damn convenient.

I think the complaint was reasonable. The candidate should only go into one polling place once during an election, to cast her vote. Running round thanking everyone in sight looks too much like campaigning to me. The candidate’s presence inside the polling place is just as much a campaign device as her picture on a t-shirt would be.

Last time I worked at the polls, a local pizza shop was going around and giving free food to all of the polling places near the store. He had to have given away hundreds of dollars of food.

He never mentioned any issues or candidates, otherwise we would have not accepted it. He said he was doing it because he wanted to thank the poll workers. He did influence me, I go to this store on occasion now.

Not sure this is on point, but I like telling that story.