By Politiquette’s Marissa Mitrovich: Politiquette is a place to be inspired by the art of fashion. Readers gain an understanding of the politics of why to wear–and the etiquette of when to wear–specific styles. Marissa Mitrovich founded Politiquette with the goal of bringing further substance to the dialogue surrounding style in DC.
“Make America Great Again,” “America is Already Great,” and “Keep Calm and Gary On” are all slogans that can be widely seen on apparel and accessories that many Americans are wearing proudly as Election Day nears. Your fashion can be a way to amplify your voice when it comes to GOTV, but there is one place you may need to press the mute button – your polling place.
In some states wearing anything that blatantly implies you are supporting a specific candidate within a specific distance of a polling place can be considered passive electioneering. You may think this violates your first amendment right, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that it does not. As a matter of fact, each state is left to interpret their own definition of passive electioneering and how they will handle the issue. If you show up in a “Bad Hombres” shirt, it may or may not be a violation. An onsite election inspector will make an official determination in these instances. You should be aware that a refusal to comply could get you arrested, as was a man in Texas who did not want to cover up a “deplorables” shirt this past week.
Pansuit Nation, a secret Facebook group with 1.7 million members, is encouraging Hillary Clinton supporters to wear pantsuits to vote. Although wearing a pantsuit would be hard to challenge for many reasons, the love of a pantsuit might cross party and gender lines. My recommendation is to steer clear of campaign-inspired clothing unless you know how your state views this issue. For local FamousDC readers (voters), I have done the research for you. Here are your what NOT to wear guidelines.
Tamara L. Robinson, Public Affairs and Voter Outreach Specialist with the DC Board of Elections, told me “Media, voters, and election observers may not wear any campaign buttons, stickers, or other paraphernalia within 50-feet of all Early Voting Center and Election Day polling place entrances. Anyone attempting to enter a polling place wearing said materials will be asked to remove, cover, or turn the items “inside out.”
“Electioneering is campaigning for or against a candidate or ballot issue. It includes handing out fliers, holding signs, and encouraging voters to support or oppose a candidate or ballot question. It is not electioneering if a voter wears campaign buttons, t-shirts, or stickers when voting. After voting, however, the voter must immediately leave the early voting center or polling place.” (via MD Board of Elections)
After a couple of calls to the Virginia Board of Elections hotline and speaking with people who were unable to answer my question, I received a message from the Virginia Board of elections stating, “there are no provisions on what voters are allowed to wear to the polls on election day.” I think I came across some specific guidelines for Fairfax County here. These guidelines resemble the rules in MD. Note – in 2008 Virginia did have rules about what voters could wear to the polls.