Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Voted

I voted at approximately 1:15 pm at Fort Hunt Elementary School in Alexandria, VA. No lines! You could choose to vote on a paper ballot or on a machine. I chose a paper ballot because I don't trust the machines. There was only one thing to vote on other than President, Senator and Congressperson, something to give the parks more money. Yes, fine, who could argue against that? After filling out the ballot, I put it in a scanner, which immediately showed that it had scanned one more ballot. It showed a total of 587 at that time.

One curious thing. The Virginia Board of Elections adopted this policy recently, and it was prominently posted in several spots at my polling place.

The phrase, “it shall be unlawful for any person... to...exhibit... other campaign material”
within the Code of Virginia, § 24.2-604 shall be interpreted as:

No person shall show, display, or exhibit any material, object, item, advertisement, or piece
of apparel, which has the purpose of expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly
identified candidate or issue.

Any person who does so shall be asked by the officers to cease from showing, displaying or
exhibiting the material, object, item, advertisement, or piece of apparel, or to remove or
cover it until they leave the prohibited area and polling place.

Nothing in this policy shall prohibit any person from bringing but not exhibiting any
campaign material within 40 feet of any entrance of any polling place.

It seems to me that wearing a T-shirt with a candidate's name on it hardly constitutes electioneering. I think this is probably a First Amendment violation. I know the ACLU of VA asked the State Board not to adopt this policy, but I don't know whether they filed a lawsuit to prevent its passage or enforcement. Maybe more on that later if I find out more. I just wonder why the State Board of Elections took such a hard stance. Who cares if someone's wearing an Obama or McCain T-shirt while they're voting? The party reps standing outside the polling place said people were wearing buttons and no one asked them to take them off. I'm going to find out more about this because I really think this is wrong.

UPDATE: I can't find anything about a lawsuit. The ACLU wrote the State Board of Elections a letter, but that's it, apparently. Here's the letter. The most interesting part of the letter is this:
The law in Virginia is obviously intended to ban electioneering in the polling place, not silent, passive personal political statements,” added Willis [ACLU VA director]. “We believe that the state has nothing to fear by allowing individuals to wear political buttons and t-shirts in polling places, that it is consistent with the constitutional right of free speech to protect such expression and, frankly, that registrars and poll workers have a lot more important things to do on Election Day than to monitor voters’ clothing.”

The ACLU’s letter also points out that the draft policy is likely to cause a great deal of confusion on Election Day because it implies the need to draw distinctions between expression in support of a particular candidate and more generalized political advocacy, a line that is often hard to draw even in court cases. For example, while a “Vote for Obama” or “Vote for McCain” button would clearly be prohibited under the proposed policy, it is unclear whether a pro- or anti-George Bush button or t-shirt with a donkey or elephant symbol on it would be allowed.

1 comment:

Julie Riddlebarger said...

WE WON!!!!

(Yeah, I agree with you here, too. Surprise.)