Maricopa County elections chief: Tea party shirt won't fly at polling sites here - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Maricopa County elections chief: Tea party shirt won't fly at polling sites here

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Posted: Friday, October 22, 2010 3:33 pm | Updated: 8:21 pm, Mon Mar 14, 2011.

A Coconino County woman may have a deal to wear her "tea party'' shirt to her polling site, but that same shirt is "not appropriate," and would not be welcome at Valley polling sites, said Karen Osborne, director of elections for Maricopa County.

"We're going to handle this the same way we have always handled campaigning at the polling place. If someone wants to come to the polling place and campaign outside the 75 foot area, they can have banner, buttons, T-shirts and signs," Osborne said. "But the 75-foot rule was designed by law and has been enforced forever that that would be a neutral zone, a quiet zone, so the public could come into the polling place, come in, make their decision, vote, and not have any type of harassment."

At issue is the "Flagstaff Tea Party -- Reclaiming Our Constitution Now" T-shirt that Flagstaff resident DianeWickberg wore to vote during both the May 18 special election and the Aug. 24 primary election.

During the special election, Wickberg was told she could vote because no one else was at the polling site. But during the primary election, she was told to cover up her shirt, said Clint Bolick, an attorney with the Goldwater Institute representing Wickberg in a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The Goldwater Institute asked for an injunction for the upcoming Nov. 2 general election allowing Wickberg to wear the shirt.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Teilborg signed an order allowing anyone wearing Flagstaff tea party T-shirt to vote at the polls on Election Day.

Coconino County Recorder Candace Owens agreed Thursday morning to allow Wickberg - and anyone else - to wear the shirt.

The lawsuit will continue after the general election, Bolick said.

But Osborne said the shirt would not be allowed at Maricopa County sites.

"The T-party shirts would be seen as campaigning and would be inappropriate to be worn inside the polling place," she said.

Bolick disagrees.

"That is simply outrageous. It is in my view a defiance of the law. We have a fresh injunction against Coconino County for the exact same policy. Essentially we have the elections director saying, ‘That law does not apply to us.' That is very dangerous territory for an elections official to tread," Bolick said.

Bolick argues the shirt is not for an official political party and someone wearing it could be voting for any body and any issue.

"While a Republican T-shirt would indicate support of Republican candidates, a tea party T-shirt just shows you're a member of an organization and it does not indicate support or opposition to any candidate or any ballot proposition," he said.

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