Tea Partiers Sue To Wear Political Shirts At Polls

Like most states, Arizona law bans electioneering from inside a polling place, meaning that buttons or t-shirts that endorse a candidate or cause must be covered up.  That hasn’t stopped a conservative group from filing a federal lawsuit to try and allow voters the ability to wear tea party shirts to the polls.

The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation filed suit on behalf of Diane Wickberg, a 55-year-old grandmother and resident of Coconino County who was stopped at the polls in May for wearing a shirt that read “Flagstaff Tea Party-Reclaiming Our Constitution Now.”  After arguing with poll workers that the shirt didn’t suggest voting for or against a particular measure–in this case a temporary sales tax increase that was at issue–she was allowed to vote because no other voters were at the polling station at the time.

Wickberg showed some pluck and wore the shirt again, this time in the state’s August 24th primary.  She was again told to cover her shirt and to hide, while voting, her association with the group.

The suit seeks to allow Wickberg (and presumably others) the right to wear their tea party shirts in the November 2 general election.  According to the Goldwater group, barring the shirt is an overly broad interpretation of local election laws that unreasonably interferes with citizens’ speech rights.

Election workers have defended their decisions and insist they should have the right to evaluate whether or not a particular item qualifies as electioneering on a case-by-case basis.  According to Arizona assistant secretary of state Jim Drake, its not as simple as asking whether or not an item does or does not endorse a candidate or position.  The tea party is a perfect example since candidates have been dubbed “tea party favorites” and such a notation qualifies as an endorsement of sorts.  To wear a tea party t-shirt to the polls in such a case could easily amount to electioneering.

Given the focus on November, and the battle in the right between tea party candidates and establishment Republicans, I’d expect to see a lot more of these kinds of battles.

photo courtesy of hijl via Flickr

65 comments

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

If they came wearing only tea leafs I would allow them in. LOL

Michael Cunningham

"Turn the shirt inside out at the polls if you want to wear it election day. "

Hard to comment when what you are responding to is not available. But based on the material presented in the orginal article the wording on the shirt does not qualify as electioneering. Therefore no action needed on voters part.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

Turn the shirt inside out at the polls if you want to wear it election day.

Michael Cunningham

" Putting on a shirt (of whatever kind) that has any political connotation brings a chilling effect to the polling place."

So basically you are saying that a shirt that has a US flag should be prohibited, or perhaps a shirt that is yellow in color with the words "don't tread on me" is too political and thereby prohibited.

"Flagstaff Tea Party-Reclaiming Our Constitution Now." is at least as innocuous as those. Unless of course there is a constitutional issue on the ballot or an actual Tea Party group.

Ed G.
Ed G.6 years ago

I used to be a judge at the polling place. I can definetly understand why the rule was instituted and how its its been enforced.
Before I was a judge at the polling place I was a person that was sent out by politicians to watch for any irregularities in voting and I saw quite a few. I will not go into specifics other that seeing priest pay for votes was in the 10 ten illegalities I witnessed.
Putting on a shirt (of whatever kind) that has any political connotation brings a chilling effect to the polling place. I do not have trouble with it 100 feet away (well a little but know its reasonable restriction). I hope the judge throws this out on its ear and make the looser pay for court costs.

Michael C.

I don't remember now if it said what was on the shirt. But if "I feel that allowing this would be a form of intimidation to the voter." if that is all it takes to intimidate you you need something.

Michael C.

Doyal left a comment on the following article:

"That granny gets no sympathy from me. "

Why is that?

Allan Y.
.6 years ago

The Tea Party has been pushing its agenda for quite a while now. They are actually beginning to have a political influence. This being said, they have no right to wear their political views near polling places.