“Don’t Wear Obama T-Shirts to the Polls”, says Office of L.A. County Voter Registrar

We’ve all seen a slew of emails distributed that warn Obama supporters to refrain from wearing Obama T-Shirts when they go to the polls. When I first saw these warnings, I went to the California Secretary of State website to see if I could find an official position posted.

I thought I might find something in the FAQs (frequently asked questions) or maybe in the Voter Bill of Rights online pamphlet. After several attempts at locating specific language that clearly states that the wearing of campaign t-shirts to the polls violates election rules, I found nothing specific. So I telephoned the Los Angeles County Voter Registrar.

The person I spoke with told me it was, indeed, against election rules to wear campaign T-Shirts to the polls but when I asked him where I could find such a rule posted, he could not find the site. He then put me on hold for about 3 minutes. When he returned he told me that the L.A. County Voter Registrar also needed clarity on this issue so the office asked the Secretary of State to send them a document.

The letter that refers to this rule was sent by the California Secretary of State’s Office to the L.A. County Voter Registrar’s Office. I have a copy because the person at the L.A. County Voter Registrar’s office was kind enough to send it to me and, I might add, within 15 minutes of me asking for it. Good Job! Here it is:



Evan Goldberg, Chief Deputy Secretary of State spotted this post and provided a link to the entire document put out by the Secretary of State’s office on this issue in September.


Evan also provided a link to the County Elections Officials


Thank You Evan!

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About Sharon Kyle

Sharon Kyle, J.D. is the Publisher of the LA Progressive which she co-founded with her husband Dick Price. Ms. Kyle is an adjunct professor of law at Peoples College in Los Angeles. She sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and is on the editorial board of the BlackCommentator.com. Photo courtesy Wadeva Images. www.wadevaimages.com


  1. i went to the poll place today and was wearing a shirt that said republican on it and got told i had to wear a different shirt, it didnt say anything about mccain or obama, just republican. i dont think thats right. whatever. GO MCCAIN!

  2. W of NoHo says:

    One hundred feet away from the polling place is a nice round number. T-Shirts, radio ads, bumper stickers have all had their chance for exposure for months before the election.
    I would like to enter the polling place in peace and quiet, vote my conscience and go home without having to argue with anyone.
    At the point that I am entering the polling place and casting my vote, it is with self respect and the last thing I need to see is another snide remark about someone’s opinion of my candidate.

  3. Other t-shirts I advise people not to wear:

    - Dolemite for President
    - Stewart-Colbert 2008
    - Vote for Pedro
    - Korda’s photo of Che Guevara
    - Alex P. Keaton for President
    - Any Kanye West, Dixie Chicks, Melissa Etheridge, or Common t-shirts
    - I’m with Stupid (could be interpreted as pro-McCain/Palin)
    - I (heart) Huckabees
    - DARE to keep Cops off Drugs
    - Any PETA t-shirt

  4. I think Mary Ann in the earlier comment gets to the purpose behind the rule — polling places were to be “set-apart,” neutral spaces where all campaining was to cease and the voter was left to his or her own private decision.

    It’s a good rule, in my opinion. I know voting absentee has become more popular (and more convenient for most of us, to be sure), but I still love going to vote in person on election day, I see several of my neighbors and somehow I find new appreciation in the great blessings of democracy that we have in this country.

  5. I agree 100% with Sharon Toji.

    Going to the polls is a little like getting through airport security these days. I don’t see any reason to willfully break the rules and then get huffy about it. The prohibition on electioneering is for the protection of everyone.

    Maybe being a bit older, I take this civic stuff more seriously, but I wouldn’t even wear my vintage Marion Barry for Mayor t-shirt.

  6. I’m a pollworker – and I’m bringing a bunch of grocery bags and masking tape so that people who are wearing the “wrong” t-shirt can temporarily cover it up so they can vote.

    Believe me, with an anticipated 80% turnout predicted, we need the simplest solutions to any problems.

    I agree with the poster above. Just don’t wear anything that promotes a political party or candidate. The last thing we need is disruption at the polls.

    And vote!!!!!

  7. Sharon Toji says:

    I think people who object to this rule are being short-sighted and rather ridiculous. The rule protects everyone. It also means that people can’t “electioneer” for McCain or for Prop 8. I have known about this rule for many years, and it would never occur to me that I should be “making a point” by wearing election material to the polls. To me, this shows a rather naive attitude on the part of people who appear to be first time or only occasional voters, and who care more about their support of Obama than their support for the Democratic process. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but yesterday someone came in to our headquarters asking about something — can’t remember what — and then said, “Oh, I don’t care about anything but Obama.” I know that Obama wants votes, and we all want him to be elected, but there is much more at stake here, and I believe Obama would be the first to agree.

    Sharon Toji

    • Remember, baby steps. We’ve got them excited about our candidate. Next, we get them excited about their community, their country, and their world. :)

  8. Roxie Patterson says:

    In poll worker training for LA county, we were told to ask them to remove ‘electioneering stuff’. We could safe their place in line too! If they refuse, we are to just let them vote as quick as possible….. I am finding the perfect place to park my car that has signs on it everywhere. 101 feet away is where my car will be, lol!

  9. M.R. in L.A. says:

    I’ve worn candidate shirts to the polls before and haven’t had a problem. I plan to do so again this year.
    That said, if you live somewhere where the RNC is actively trying to suppress the vote or where you have to wait in long lines, don’t risk it. Be prepared with a jacket to throw on and cover it to avoid confrontation.
    TC is right, a few minutes of suppressing the message on your shirt is a fair price to pay for the four years of hope your vote should bring.

  10. Right wing voter surpression groups will be looking for any reason to stop someone from voting. Take off the pin, wear a different shirt, leave the hat in the car. Isn’t it rather silly to cut off your vote to spite your face, so to speak?

    For 20 months, many of us have done everything we can to get a Democrat elected president. Let’s not trip ourselves up at the last minute by doing something pointless such as wearing a Obama T-shirt or hat or button just to make a point — a point you’ll lose, by the way — at a polling station.

  11. Thanks for bringing up this important subject, Sharon.

    I’ve been a volunteer coordinator in LA County (which, btw, is the largest voting jurisdiction in the nation) and it is very clear – there is a “sacred” non-partisan 100′ area around and inside the voting place. No campaigning, no signs, no tee shirts. Pollworkers have been instructed to ask that you either turn the tee shirt inside out or wear something over it.

    It’s smart democracy. You may not like it. But consider how you wouldn’t like it if the law wasn’t in place or wasn’t enforced.

    Poll workers are rock stars on Nov 4! Remember to thank them for the service they are providing (they receive a minimum stipend to work over a 14 hour day plus the training). They are the caretakers of our fragile democracy.

    See problems at a polling place?
    Have trouble voting?
    call 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
    We are the leaders that we’ve been waiting for

    • Amen at Fragile Democracy! Watch “John Adams”…You can get it at SAM’s Club or online at Amazon…worth the $36. Fragile indeed. We’ve come a long way, baby…just not far enough.

  12. I remember this from when I was a kid (long time ago!). My mom often volunteered to work on election day at our neighborhood polling places, which is why maybe I remember this, but there was a stipulation about no campaign buttons or even bumper stickers on cars at that time (in the 1960s), within a certain distance of polling places, maybe a block?

    I don’t think anyone invented candidate T-shirts back then, but I did have a “McGovern ’72″ shirt when I was in college.

  13. RudeButRight says:

    Hey, doesn’t say you have to WEAR a shirt. Take the dang thing off on the spot! Topless people for Obama!

  14. Let’s do ourselves a favor and keep our eye on the ball. Taking off my Obama hat and leaving it in the car, and wearing a different T-shirt, is a small price to pay for ending 40 years of a fascist coup d’etat and finally winning the election of 1968. Mewling about whether you can wear your T-shirt is a demonstration of political immaturity in a situation like we face in 2008.

  15. Utterly ridiculous!!! 99% of individuals probably already know who they’re voting for when they get to the polls.

    • Paul,

      The rule may be “utterly ridiculous,” but it would be so ridiculous for someone to show up in an Obama (or McCain) shirt and not be allowed to vote.

      – Dick

      • My husband has served as a Republican “sheriff” at the Indiana polls for nearly 20 years and said it’s always been a rule. Apparently, people would be harrassed or otherwise dissuaded in the past. When you go to the poll, no one knows who you’ll vote for, no one…it’s your secret to share if you so choose AFTER you vote. I think it’s a fair rule that avoids any attempt at intimidation for either side.

        Go Obama!

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