The Republicans are making an issue out of a misguided directive that poll workers might want to prevent voters from wearing World Wrestling Entertainment garb when they're casting their ballots. I don't blame them.
But I don't understand why nobody's focusing on the larger issue: why do we allow election officials to prohibit political buttons and other paraphernalia at the polls at all?
The law in Connecticut says that "no person shall solicit in behalf of or in opposition to the candidacy of another or himself or in behalf of or in opposition to any question being submitted at the election or referendum, or loiter or peddle or offer any advertising matter, ballot or circular to another person within a radius of seventy-five feet of any outside entrance in use as an entry to any polling place or in any corridor, passageway or other approach leading from any such outside entrance to such polling place or in any room opening upon any such corridor, passageway or approach...."
But the law clearly flies in the face of the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech and the state's own Constitution, which proclaims that "every citizen may freely speak."
While few of us would want to be harassed by party workers as we cast our ballots, it's plain silly that supporters of Linda McMahon, for example, can't wear a shirt with her campaign logo on it when they go to vote. Who's harmed?
Moderators at every polling place already have the discretion to prevent people from causing any problems that might hinder the voting process. Heck, they can even throw out a too-pushy reporter if they must.
But since when is a political button or a leaflet in someone's hand or a Dan Malloy hat or a Ann Brickley t-shirt undermining anybody's ability to do anything?
This law amounts to a dress code policy for voters. It's an absurdity that is patently unconstitutional and, even worse, just plain dumb.
In this country, we have faith in free speech. We shouldn't chuck it come Election Day.
Update: After reading the entire section of the code dealing with polling places, it's pretty clear to me the whole thing is ridiculous. Students are allowed to watch only between noon and 3 p.m. and only if no more than four of them are present. Children are only allowed to accompany a parent or guardian until they turn 16, then I guess they're not to be there, though even that's a little unclear. Violators face up to $50 fines and three months in prison. God forbid a fifth student comes down to watch! And why would we care if a 17-year-old watches his mom vote? I'm perplexed by the logic of all of this.
By the way, the only penalty in the statute for wearing political garb is to get booted from the polling place so don't worry about going to jail for three months if you decide you just can't take that John Larson t-shirt off before you go to vote.
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