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"What Not to Wear," Election Day Special

October 22, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 22, 2008

CONTACTS: Deb Greenspan, dgreenspan@gloverparkgroup.com, 202-741-5573

“What Not to Wear,” Election Day Special
Election Protection offers assistance at 1-866-OUR-VOTE for problems registering or voting; Experts available to comment on a variety of voting-related issues

WASHINGTON – Come Election Day, voters may want to cover-up their “Barack-Solid as a Rock-Obama” and “Palin Power” t-shirts. In many states, laws are unclear on whether voters can wear campaign paraphernalia in polling places. Though there are certainly First Amendment concerns about preventing Americans from expressing their political choices, it may be easiest for voters to cover up t-shirts, buttons or other apparel that supports or opposes a candidate or an initiative.

Not only does the breadth of these restrictions vary from state to state, these laws are often vague and open to many different interpretations. Because of this, poll workers and those who train the poll workers often have a hard time determining what activity is prohibited. Therefore, even if you live in a state that allows voters to wear political gear inside a polling place, a confused or inadequately trained poll worker may attempt to prohibit you from entering the polling place to vote.

During the 2008 primary season, several voters called the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline confused by their local laws, including Patsy, an Indiana voter who went to her polling place clad in a candidate’s hat and t-shirt, and was immediately stopped by a poll worker. While Patsy was ultimately able to vote, the disruption for her and others in her polling place could be avoided by erring on the side of caution.

“While there are clear First Amendment issues with not wearing political paraphernalia of your choice, we urge voters to err on the side of caution to ensure that their ballot is able to be cast,” said Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The short term solution to this needlessly confusing patchwork of state laws is more adequate poll worker training so that laws are properly enforced. In the long-term, we need clear national standards that reduce the barriers that people face when heading to the polls.”

With more than 125 million voters projected for this year, mistakes are inevitable. That’s why Election Protection offers a free and nonpartisan live hotline – 1-866-OUR VOTE (1-866-687-8683) and 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-83-9-8682)—and comprehensive web resources at www.866ourvote.org to voters who have questions or encounter problems. Experts are standing by to help between now and Election Day.

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Election Protection is the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline (1-866-687-8683) and dedicated team of experts and trained volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting, offering live assistance. The coalition has more than 100 partners at the national, state and local level and is providing live voter protection services now through Election Day for all 50 states. For more information about Election Protection and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline, please visit: www.866ourvote.org.