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TRI In The News

Big Mistake by Va. Board of Elections

Original article available here.

SUMMARY: The State Board of Elections has made an error in judgment that violates the First Amendment and threatens to spark chaos at the polls Nov. 4.

As reported by the Associated Press, the State Board of Elections voted last week to "ban clothing and hats as well as buttons and other paraphernalia that directly advocate the election or defeat of a specific candidate or issue."

In plain English: Don't you dare come to the polls wearing anything with the words McCain or Obama on it. If so, you won't be allowed to vote.

There are so many problems with this new decree that we don't know where to begin. For starters, it's a clear violation of free speech and expression. In trying to keep intimidation out of the polling places, the Board of Elections has done just the opposite: It has created a hostile ruling that a) will be difficult to interpret and enforce, b) sets an awful precedent, c) will face massive legal scrutiny, d) tramples individual liberties and e) will inevitably lead to anger and chaotic situations at polling places across Virginia.

In a letter to Gov. Tim Kaine and the elections board, John W. Whitehead, president of the Charlottesville-based civil liberties organization The Rutherford Institute, rightfully points out that "the policy's language is overly vague, which could very well result in local officials across the state gagging free speech and/or disenfranchising Virginia voters."
The ACLU of Virginia also has asked the elections board to overturn its decision, a move we fully support.

It's one thing to ban poll workers from wearing politically charged clothing. That makes complete sense. But when you start telling voters they can't wear McCain buttons or Obama stickers, that's downright unAmerican.

Virginia must rescind this policy -- now.


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