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28 September 2008

When You Vote, Leave The Campaign Material At Home

This morning, my mother called me with a concerned tone in her voice about a rumor she saw on the internet claiming that if you wore an Obama t-shirt or campaign button to the polls on election day, you'd be turned away.

I had to politely explain to my mom that A.) she shouldn't believe everything she reads on the internet; and B.) she would not be refused the right to vote simply because she was wearing Obama apparel.

Georgia state law says that "No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute any campaign literature, newspaper, booklet, pamphlet, card, sign, or any other written or printed matter of any kind, nor shall any person conduct any exit poll or public opinion poll with voters on any primary or election day: (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established; (2)Within any polling place; or (3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place." [Source: Official Code of Georgia Annotated 21-2-414(a)]

More specifically, the Georgia Secretary of State's office advises voters that "No person may campaign; distribute literature of written or printed matter of any kind; wear campaign buttons, signs, pins, stickers, T-shirts, etc.; circulate petitions; or perform similar activities within 150 feet of the building in which a polling place is located."

Georgia's law has been on the books since the first time I worked at the polls for Fulton County in 2000 -- probably even longer.

And this isn't an Obama thing.

This law applies to everyone; Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, independents and yes, non-partisan judicial candidates too. If you come into a polling precinct wearing an Obama t-shirt or a McCain button or a Michael Meyer von Bremen for Court of Appeals lapel sticker, you will be asked to remove your campaign apparel before you can vote.

So just don't do it. Leave all the t-shirts, hats, buttons, stickers, rally signs and yard signs at home.

Everyone is enthusiastic about their candidate and everyone wants to see their candidate win, but the polling place is non-partisan. It's a place where people can cast their ballots without feeling pressured from rival campaigns to vote one way or the other.

If you really feel compelled to campaign for your candidate, follow the law and stay 150 from the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established.