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Va. Bans Political Clothing at Polling Places - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Va. Bans Political Clothing at Polling Places

Posted: Updated: Oct 14, 2008 05:35 PM EDT

The Virginia State Board of Elections has unanimously adopted a policy that prohibits voters from wearing anything that expressly supports a candidate at polling places on November 4.

State law has always said no campaigning, but all 134 Virginia counties had different ways of interpreting that.

"Some very permissive, allowing people to wear anything in; some only removing stickers; others not allowing t-shirts, caps or anything with a candidates name," Virginia State Board of Elections Chair Jean Cunningham said.

But some say even this policy leaves the door open for interpretation. "Interpreting other people's speech on their t-shirts and buttons is a subjective business," said Rebecca Glenberg with the American Civil Liberties Union.

In fact, the ACLU argues that this new statewide policy won't do anything but restrict free speech. "So a t-shirt that may be completely acceptable to the election officials in Charlottesville may be unacceptable to election officials in Albemarle County," Glenberg said.

Although there might still be some confusion over what is and is not campaigning, board members say it is better to have a policy than not. "It is better to put out there, I believe, ahead of time, a policy that informs the general public and our officers of election what is to be expected," Cunningham said. 

If someone does show up to a polling place in a campaign gear, precincts are expected to have something available, like a smock or a poncho, so the person can cover up and vote.

Reported by Loretta Boniti

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