Can I Wear a Political T-Shirt When Voting at the Polls?

Many people like to show their political affiliations by wearing a t-shirt that represents their political candidate or the political party they support. It’s a fun way to show your support for your choice during an election period. However, political t-shirts can be construed in some cases as campaigning for a certain candidate or political party. Whether a t-shirt like this can be worn to the polls depends on the type of t-shirt, how it’s worn and in some cases it comes down to the opinion of the poll workers.

There are states in which anything can be worn to the polls, including political t-shirts. There are also a number of states that don’t allow any political messages of any kind to be worn to the polls.

People in Vermont, South Carolina and New York, for instance, are not allowed to wear a political t-shirt when voting. Anyone showing up at the polls may be asked to either cover up the t-shirt or to turn it inside out so that the message no longer shows. If a voter refuses to do this, poll workers in these states can turn the wearer of the political t-shirt away.

In Maryland and many other states, voters can wear any type of political clothing they wish, but they are not allowed to stay at the polling site after voting. This would constitute campaigning at the poll site, which is illegal. Anyone in a political t-shirt has to leave immediately after voting and stay a few hundred yards away from the polls to avoid being considered a campaigner. This is a way of keeping t-shirts and other campaign paraphernalia from influencing other voters. It also keeps disruptive arguments from breaking out among people with competing political points of view.

In some states, the question gets more complicated. There are some states that have laws about wearing reasonable political messages to the polls. The problem there is defining what is reasonable and what is too much like campaigning for a candidate. The question is subjective and largely comes down to the opinion of the poll workers. They may decide that a bright, noticeable political t-shirt might attract too much attention. Or, they may allow t-shirts but no political buttons. In some cases, these polling places will have a smock that poll workers hand out to people who are wearing clothes that are considered unreasonable. Smaller districts may have jackets to loan to voters to avoid having to turn them away from the polls.

In still other states, each individual county has its own rules about what can and can’t be worn to the polls. This can make it difficult for residents to know exactly what will be allowed in their districts. If you aren’t sure about whether a political t-shirt is allowed in your state or county, call the local courthouse for the information. If you are still unsure, bring a jacket along with you to the polls to avoid being turned away for inappropriate attire.

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