North Carolina Elections Rumor Control: Wearing political t-shirts, hats etc. to the polls is not against NC law

This rumor has been spotted mostly amongst the Obama camp. Emails are warning supporters that wearing political gear, hats, t-shirts, buttons etc – that feature a political candidate to the polling places is against the law. It is FALSE.

The rumor comes in an email entitled “Please advise everyone you know not to wear Obama gear to the polls”. The claim is that this is considered “electioneering” or campaigning and no one can campaign within 100 feet of the polls, so wearing political gear will get you turned away.

None of those rumors are true, at least not for North Carolina. but please don’t take my word for it. If you wear your Obama t-shirt, McCain t-shirt, Bob Barr t-shirt, or Cynthia McKinnie t-shirt, will you get turned away from the polls? To clear matters up, I emailed Don Wright, the General Counsel for the North Carolina State Board of Elections today. He replied in a matter of minutes and explained:

From: Don Wright
To: Joyce McCloy
Subject: RE: electioneering question
Date: Sep 24, 2008 3:16 PM

This rumor has been circulating for several days.We allow voters to wear items inside the polling place in North Carolina. But other states may differ (I understand Tenn. does not allow it)A NC voter may enter a voting place to vote wearing political items as long as they…

proceed to vote in a orderly and timely manner, and do not attempt to electioneer within the voting place. A voter wearing a t-shirt saying “Vote for X”that shouts “vote for X” or places his T-shirt in the sightline of voters asking support for “X” is obviously electioneering and will be asked to refrain from the conduct at once, and if they continue will be removed.

A voter that has a political cap, T-shirt, or button and does not electioneer within the polling place will be allowed to vote in a normal matter. A voter wearing a political item does not violate GS 163-166.4
Don Wright
General Counsel

§ 163 166.4. Limitation on activity in the voting place and in a buffer zone around it.
(a) Buffer Zone and Adjacent Area for Election Related Activity. – No person or group of persons shall hinder access, harass others, distribute campaign literature,place political advertising, solicit votes, or otherwise engage in election related activity in the voting place or in a buffer zone which shall be prescribed by the county board of elections around the voting place. In determining the dimensions of that buffer zone for each voting place, the county board of elections shall, where practical, set the limit at 50 feet from the door of entrance to the voting place, measured when that door is closed, but in no event shall it set the limit at more than 50 feet or at less than 25 feet. Except as provided in subsection
(b),the county board of elections shall also provide an area adjacent to the buffer zone for each voting place in which persons or groups of persons may distribute campaign literature, place political advertising, solicit votes, or otherwise engage in election related activity.
(b) Special Agreements About Election Related Activity. – The Executive Director of the State Board of Elections may grant special permission for a county board of elections to enter into an agreement with the owners or managers of a nonpublic building to use the building as a voting place on the condition that election related activity as described in subsection
(a) of this section not be permitted on their property adjacent to the buffer zone, if the Executive Director finds all of the following:
(1) That no other suitable voting place can be secured for the precinct.
(2) That the county board will require the chief judge of the precinct to monitor the grounds around the voting place to ensure that the restriction on electionrelated activity shall apply to all candidates and parties equally.
(3) That the pattern of voting places subject to agreements under this subsection does not disproportionately favor any party, racial or ethnic group, or candidate.An agreement under this subsection shall be valid for as long as the nonpublic building is used as a voting place.
(c) Notice About Buffer Zone. – No later than 30 days before each election,the county board of elections shall make available to the public the following information concerning each voting place:
(1) The door from which the buffer zone is measured.
(2) The distance the buffer zone extends from that door.
(3) Any available information concerning where political activity, including sign placement, is permitted beyond the buffer zone.
(d) Buffer Zone at One Stop Sites. – The provisions of this section shall apply to one stop voting sites in G.S. 163 227.2, except that the notice in subsection
(c) of this section shall be provided no later than 10 days before the opening of one stop voting at the site. (2001 460, s. 3; 2003 365, s. 1; 2007 391, s. 13.)

—–Original Message—–

From: Joyce McCloy Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 3:08 PM
To: Don Wright
Subject: electioneering question

North Carolina State Board of Elections
Don Wright, General Counsel
Dear Don;

Can you clear something up for me.Is there a restriction against voters wearing t-shirts, hats etc to the polls, while voting – that bears the likeness of a political candidate or in other ways shows support for a candidate?

There are several rumors about this circulating around the state and I also heard discussion on a radio show.Some rumors say that you won’t be allowed in the voting area if you wear such attire, or that you won’t get to vote unless you change clothes etc. None of these rumors are substantiated in any way by citing NC law.

Please advise.Regards;
Joyce McCloy
NC Coalition for Verified Voting

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