Pa. official: Clothes do not make the voter

Monday, September 08, 2008



Wearing campaign buttons or a T-shirt with candidates' names at a polling place is not grounds for preventing anyone from voting, the Pennsylvania Department of State says.

What a person wears should not matter as long as a voter does not try to campaign in the polling place, state elections Commissioner Chet Harhut says in a memo sent last week to county elections officials.

"Of primary concern is that no duly registered person be turned away at the polls," Harhut said. "If the conduct and apparel of a voter is determined to be more than passive, it should be addressed by the district election officials."

State law prohibits "electioneering" within 10 feet of polling places but does not define the term.

The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union asked the state to clarify the issue because it has fielded voter complaints in recent elections from several counties.

The ACLU's position is that letting local elections officials decide whether T-shirts, buttons or stickers are impermissible "has the potential to result in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, and voters' First Amendment rights should not depend on which county they happen to live in."

In some counties, voters have been allowed into the voting booth only after turning their shirts inside out, the ACLU said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.