Monday, November 1, 2010


Maricopa County drops election apparel ban

Crunched for time to enforce a federal judge's decision Monday on today's election, Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said she is allowing voters to wear any apparel, including clothing that supports or opposes a candidate or proposition on the ballot, inside Maricopa County polls.

"We're doing the best we can . . . but I'm too short of time to try to get . . . to the poll workers at this late date," Purcell told The Arizona Republic late Monday.

Purcell said she did not think her decision would violate U.S. District Court Judge James Teilborg's ruling. However, that ruling set clear parameters for what apparel would be banned.

On Monday, Teilborg granted a temporary restraining order that allows people to wear a " 'tea party' T-shirt or any apparel that does not express support for or opposition to" a candidate, proposition or political party on the ballot.

Applying Teilborg's standard, apparel that promoted a labor union or the tea-party movement would be permissible, while a shirt supporting the Republican Party or Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard would not.

Purcell said she posted the judge's ruling on the county recorder's website but added that she was forced to allow any apparel to be worn because she did not know how to retrain workers less than a day before the election.

"What about someone wearing something (that supports a candidate) running for some legislative district (the poll worker) is not familiar with? How can I say it's OK if they let that through but then not some other (more prominent) candidate? I can't discriminate. I have to allow it all. I don't know of any other fair way. I wish I did," Purcell said.

The judge's ruling and Purcell's decision affects the estimated 63 percent of Arizona voters who reside in Maricopa County.

The judge ordered the county to immediately distribute his ruling through the county recorder's website and phone calls to anyone working at polling sites.

The case came to the court last week when the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix conservative think tank, discovered that Purcell determined that tea-party shirts were political advocacy and could not be worn within 75 feet of a polling place. The 75-foot zone is designated as a "campaign-free zone" to protect voters from being influenced or intimidated while casting ballots.

Clint Bolick, a Goldwater attorney, said he was "shocked" by Purcell's ban because a judge had ruled last month in favor of a Flagstaff woman who wanted to wear a tea-party T-shirt. But Purcell said that decision narrowly applied to Coconino County and only permitted the specific shirt representing the Flagstaff tea-party group.

Last week, Bolick filed for a temporary restraining order on behalf of Mark Reed, a Maricopa County voter who wanted to wear a tea-party T-shirt to the polls today. He asked the judge to allow the shirts on the basis that the apparel did not represent a registered political party, proposition or candidate on the ballot and as such did not violate electioneering laws.

Purcell said that officials were not singling out the tea party and would ban any politically charged apparel. She said other examples of prohibited apparel included T-shirts with marijuana plants because it could be considered support for this year's ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana, and shirts from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, a national advocacy group.

County Elections Director Karen Osborne testified Monday that electioneering is hard to define but that "we know it when we see it."

That fuzzy standard, Teilborg said, had led to inconsistencies such as Osborne testifying that a labor-union or Chamber of Commerce shirt would be allowed even though those groups endorse candidates and propositions, while the tea-party T-shirt was banned because certain tea-party chapters endorsed candidates.

The judge ruled that Maricopa County had no clear standard for what constituted electioneering, which left voters without the information needed to determine what apparel could be banned. He also considered the ban a violation of First Amendment rights.

"Courts have consistently recognized the significant public interest in upholding First Amendment principles," he wrote.

Aftr the hearing, Purcell said she worried that the judge's decision would harm voters.

"It's going to open the floodgates (on electioneering). There's a quiet zone where the voter is supposed to be protected from (partisan politics) . . . with this decision, we're basically going to open the door to it all," she said.

Bolick said he considered the ruling a win for First Amendment rights.

"The idea that somebody could be (charged with a misdemeanor) . . . for wearing the wrong shirt is an offense to a free society. If someone wants to wear a T-shirt with (President Barack) Obama on it, that's just fine," he said.

The restraining order only applies to today's election. A hearing will be set to resolve the electioneering issue in the long term, county attorneys said.

We're going to new a neww prison to hold all of these renegade cheerleaders, savage teenage trick-or-treaters and the latest violent criminals-Tea Party Tee Shirt Voters.

Keeping America safe!

We'll let anyone swarm over the border, as long as they're dressed right at the polls!

"It was just another sneak attack
Of temporary sanity
I had a pleasant stay but now I'm back
From temporary sanity"

-Todd Rundgren

No comments:

Post a Comment