Friday, September 19, 2008

Counties to Decide on Political Attire at Polls

The Pennsylvania Department of State isn't calling it a reversal but rather a clarification. The department's Bureau of Elections says it will be up to the elections boards in each county to decide whether to allow voters to cast their ballots if they are wearing garb that supports a candidate such as t-shirts, hats and buttons. Last week the Department of State said it was sending a directive to the boards of elections in all counties instructing them to allow people wearing partisan items to cast their votes. This stemmed from a request from the American Civil Liberties Union for a clarification of the definition of "electioneering" in the Pennsylvania Election Code. Voters in Mt. Lebanon and Ardmore complained they were either turned away from the polls or told to remove or cover up the partisan apparel. The A.C.L.U. believes it is a free speech rights issue.
Department of State spokeswoman Rebecca Halton says the state cannot dictate to the county boards what to do on this matter, it can only offer guidance. Halton says the department believes that wearing such items is "passive electioneering" and is legal. However, county election bureaus should not allow people to try to actively influence other voters.
Robert Gleason, chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, says allowing the counties to make different decisions could create "chaos."
Two Allegheny County pollworkers, Richard Kraft and John Dickinson filed suit in Commonwealth Court challenging the Department of State's decision to allow each county board of elections to determine how to handle the matter. Mr. Dickinson refused to comment to WDUQ.

No comments: