Political garb not in vogue at the polls

Wearing apparel to the polls that touts or disparages a candidate is electioneering and a violation of state law, the secretary of state said.

Enforcing the law is the responsibility of the moderator at the voting site, he said.

“You cannot walk into a polling place with a sign either for or against a candidate,” Secretary of State William Gardner said.

“The moderator prevents that type of electioneering in a polling place,” Gardner said.

State law prohibits political signs or campaigning within 100 feet of a polling place. However, T-shirts either promoting or disparaging candidates have become popular, raising the question of whether a T-shirt could be construed as electioneering.

One T-shirt in particular that pokes fun at GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been making the rounds.

Wearing apparel that can be construed as a sign is electioneering, Gardner maintained.

“We go over this in training for our election officials,” Nashua City Clerk Paul Bergeron said.

Election moderators know that political buttons and hats can’t be worn, Bergeron said.isn’t a problem, Bergeron said. But if a person with campaign buttons lingers, he or she will be asked to leave or remove the item, he said.

In the case of a shirt, Bergeron said that the moderator “is not going to ask somebody to undress, obviously.”

Bergeron said he has rarely encountered a problem with politically themed clothing worn to or near voting sites.

One exception occurred during the September primaries, he said.

A college student working for an organization surveying voters was standing at the exit of Ledge Street School, the polling place in Ward 4, wearing a Barack Obama T-shirt, Bergeron said.

Though Obama wasn’t a candidate in that primary, the T-shirt was still a violation of the state law, he said.

Bergeron talked to the student, explaining the law to her and why she couldn’t wear the shirt outside the polls.

“She apologized, turned it inside out and was fine,” he said.

Of course, there is likely to be another safeguard against improper T-shirts during voting Tuesday – the weather.

Voters likely will be wearing jackets over any political T-shirts, Bergeron said.