Friday, September 26, 2008

Dressing the part for the polling place?

Like wildfire, rumors have been spreading--via the radio as well as the Internet--that voters wearing candidate paraphernalia--Obama t-shirts, political buttons--may be turned away from the polls for electioneering. This debate-within-a-debate, to dress up or not, has more legs than a centipede. In fact, the Maryland Board of Elections had to put a "Rumor Control" section on its website in order to address such speculation!

So, in Maryland, voters CAN wear all manner of campaign paraphernalia to, and into, the polling place. However, once you are done voting, you cannot loiter or linger behind the polling place. The vagueness of the election law as written is probably what gave rise to such rumors, as it does not define "electioneering." Also, commentors on the DailyKos website have commented that sometimes they have been hassled for wearing campaign articles to polling places. I wouldn't want to take a chance that a poll worker might find a way to tamper with my vote somehow, after having broadcast my intended choice via my clothing.

Maryland's elections website has also had to inform voters via rumor control that foreclosure does not keep one from voting. (However, such voters will need to update registration before October 14 in order to vote in this year's general election, as that is the deadline to be registered to vote in Maryland.) Folks voting by absentee ballot need to have a request in by mail or fax before October 28.

The last day for Virginia residents to register to vote is the close of business October 6. An application for an absentee must be received by the voter registration office by October 28.

However, DC voters should watch themselves! Not only is the DC board of elections' website woefully vague regarding registration deadline dates (or has buried them deep undercover), according to the ruling, Marlin v. District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, 236 F. 3d 716 (D.C. Cir. 2001), DC voters CAN be stopped from voting if wearing any kind of campaign paraphernalia. The gentleman at question in the above court case, David Marlin, was a DC resident who went to his polling place to vote wearing his sticker in support of mayor candidate Anthony Williams, but was informed by a poll worker that he "could not cast his ballot while wearing the sticker." He was told that he would not be permitted to vote in the general election if wearing "any sticker, button, emblem, or clothing that showed support for a candidate." Whoa!

Unfortunately for Mr. Marlin, the court ruled in favor of the Board of Elections.

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Skip the drama, vote for Obama, but don't let your clothing do the talking for you!

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