A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Campaign Buttons in the Voting Booth


Q: Can I wear my campaign button to the voting booth?

A: It depends on which state you live in, but the expert advice is to leave the campaign paraphernalia at home.

FULL QUESTION

Is this true?

Pass on, please! forward to everyone you know!! VERY IMPORTANT!!

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE ADVISE EVERYONE YOU KNOW THAT THEY ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT GO TO THE POLLS WEARING ANY OBAMA SHIRTS, PINS OR HATS, IT IS AGAINST THE LAW AND WILL BE GROUNDS TO HAVE THE POLLING OFFICIALS TO
TURN YOU AWAY.

[EET ]THAT IS CONSIDERED CAMPAIGNING AND NO ONE
CAN CAMPAIGN WITHIN X AMOUNT OF FEET TO THE POLLS. THEY ARE BANKING ON US BEING EXCITED AND NOT BEING AWARE OF THIS LONG STANDING LAW THAT YOU CAN BET WILL BE ENFORCED THIS YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THEY ARE BANKING ON. . . THAT IF YOU ARE TURNED AWAY YOU WILL NOT GO HOME AND CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES.. PLEASE JUST DON’T WEAR OBAMA GEAR OF ANY SORTS TO THE POLLS!! PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION, OH AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WERE ALREADY AWARE, THIS WAS NOT MEANT TO INSULT YOUR INTELLIGENCE.

JUST TRYING TO COVER ALL GROUNDS. [/EET]

FULL ANSWER

This e-mail has been sent to us by a number of readers. It claims to warn voters that they cannot wear Obama campaign gear (T-shirts, buttons, sweatshirts or whatever else the campaign is selling) to the polls. 

We did a little digging and found that, depending on which state you live in, you can be asked to cover up your button, be given a smock to cover up your campaign swag, or be asked (nicely, we hope) to go home and change before casting your ballot – and it doesn’t matter if you’re supporting Obama, McCain, Nader, Barr or yourself. 

The nonpartisan Web site Election Protection, a project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, provides the following advice:

Election Projection: Laws on this subject vary from state to state and are often confusing. This confusion is often most pronounced at the polling place, where poll workers may not know, or be trained properly, on what, if anything, they should do if a voter wears political paraphernalia to the polling place. Though there are certainly First Amendment concerns about preventing Americans from wearing paraphernalia that supports their political choices, it may be easiest for voters to not wear t-shirts, buttons or other apparel that supports or opposes a candidate or an initiative.

The prevention stems from laws that prohibit "electioneering" at the polls. Just as poll workers are not allowed to hand out pamphlets or display signs on behalf of the candidates, a number of states prevent voters from wearing campaign paraphernalia in the voting booth.

So, whether you live in Delaware (which bans campaign gear at polling places) or Kentucky (which doesn’t), we’d recommend that you avoid any extra hassle at the polls and refrain from wearing your affection for your candidate-of-choice on your sleeve.

Emi Kolawole

Sources

Shafer, Sheldon. "Voters may sport campaign gear at polls." The Courrier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky). 17 Oct. 2008.