November 4, 2008

Wear your buttons if you want

In a press release just issued, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz "is also reminding voters that although no one can be prevented from voting if they wear a campaign button or shirt to the polls, Connecticut General Statutes Section 9-236 prohibits solicitation on behalf of any candidate or question within 75 feet of any polling place. This would prevent an individual from wearing a campaign button, t-shirt or hat into the polling place. However, once the individual removes the button or article of clothing from plain sight, the individual would be allowed to enter the polls and to vote. Once the individual leaves the polling place and the 75 foot restricted area, they could again wear the button or article of clothing.
“We want to make sure that voters are properly informed of their rights,” said Bysiewicz. “In interpreting the law, we also want to ensure that polling places remain neutral zones where voters can go and vote their conscience free of real or perceived intimidation. We understand that many voters feel passionate about the candidates they support and will want to express their opinions through their attire. This expression is protected by the Constitution; however it must be limited to areas outside the 75’ boundary for the polling place.”
I love that disconnect.
Your right to wear a button, shirt or hat touting a candidate is "protected by the Constitution," except that it's not.
You can't wear them in when you go to vote, she says in the next line.
But the First Amendment clearly trumps that ridiculous state law. People have a right to express their political opinions, the very essence of the First Amendment, everywhere they go, including the polls.
I have no problem with the rules setting a distance for those who are there only to advertise their candidates and causes -- the political parties, mostly -- but telling voters they can't wear a button or a hat or a shirt is unconstitutional. It's also stupid.
There's a law that ought to be revised to make it both constitutional and reasonable. The way it's written is way over the line.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you haven't made up your mind before you enter the 75 feet zone, you should not be voting. You obviously don't know or care enough.