October 5, 2008 - Voting attire sparks showdown
Paper: Long Beach Press-Telegram (CA)
Title: Voting attire sparks showdown
Date: October 5, 2008
Author: Martha Raffaele
The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Sue Nace thought election volunteers were joking when they told her she would have to remove her T-shirt to vote in the presidential primary last spring.
But it was no laughing matter to the poll workers-turned-fashion police, who said Nace's Obama shirt was inappropriate electioneering - and made her cover the writing before casting a ballot.
Now, a political fight over what voters can wear to the polls is headed to court in Pennsylvania - with the Republican Party favoring a dress code and Democrats opposed.
To the GOP, the lack of rules could open the door to all kinds of questionable displays - even, one Republican leader suggested, something as outlandish as a musical hat.
To the Democrats, voters should be free to express themselves. They fear a dress code could scare away some new voters. The political showdown was triggered by a Pennsylvania Department of State memo advising counties last month that voters' attire doesn't matter as long as the "voter takes no additional action to attempt to influence other voters."
Because the memo is not legally binding, some counties have kept past restrictions on clothing and political buttons.
But two Pittsburgh-area elections officials sued to have the memo rescinded. Their lawsuit warned that if the memo stands, "nothing would prevent a partisan group from synchronizing a battalion of like-minded individuals ... to descend on a polling place, presenting a domineering, united front, certain to dissuade the average citizen who may privately hold different beliefs."
This fight over the interpretation of a state law designed to shield the polls from partisan electioneering could determine which presidential candidate's supporters might be turned away from the polls in this battleground state.
Nace, an Obama supporter, hopes the state's recommendation will stand so she can vote Nov. 4 while wearing her political leanings on her sleeve.
"Especially with this election, for some reason it feels very personal to me," she said. "Even when I see another car with a bumper sticker on it, it's like, 'Yeah, they get it."'
Index Terms: SPARKS ; NFL
Record Number: pt-1005-a14-435-dn05_npb_dresscode-97.xml
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