Judge rules 'tea party' shirts can be worn to polling sites - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Judge rules 'tea party' shirts can be worn to polling sites

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Posted: Monday, November 1, 2010 5:12 pm | Updated: 8:21 pm, Mon Mar 14, 2011.

U.S. District Judge James Teilborg ruled Monday that Maricopa County voters may wear a "tea party" T-shirt when they vote on Tuesday.

The temporary restraining order prohibits Maricopa County polling workers from telling voters they must cover or remove a "tea party" T-shirt when they are within a 75-foot zone of a polling place.

The ruling applies to clothing representing other groups as well — so long as the message doesn't endorse a particular candidate or issue.

Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne told the Tribune last week that she considered the shirts to fall under state "electioneering" laws that have been on the books since the 1950s. The law prohibits campaign materials around or in polling sites.

Osborne had said voters who refused to comply with the law may be allowed to vote, but would have their names recorded for future investigations.

But the judge ruled Monday that a "tea party" shirt does not express support for or opposition to a candidate appearing on the ballot, a proposition appearing on the ballot or a political party appearing on the ballot.

The Goldwater Institute filed the suit for the temporary restraining order last week on behalf of Scottsdale resident Mark Reed, who wants to wear his "tea party" shirt to a polling site.

Teilborg is the same judge who signed an order earlier last month allowing anyone wearing a Flagstaff tea party T-shirt to be able to vote on Election Day in Coconino County.

The issue with the T-shirt originated with Flagstaff resident Diane Wickberg. She wore a shirt that said "Flagstaff Tea Party - Reclaiming Our Constitution Now" when she went 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. During the primary election, she was told to cover up her shirt.

The Goldwater Institute filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on her behalf to allow her to wear her shirt during Tuesday's general election.

Coconino County Recorder Candace Owens agreed Oct. 21 to allow Wickberg - and anyone else - to wear the shirt after Teilborg's decision was announced.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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