Ky. voters can sport Barack buttons, McCain caps
By ROGER ALFORD – 20 hours ago
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Whether it's Barack buttons or McCain caps, Kentucky election officials say campaign paraphernalia can be worn by voters to the polls on Election Day.
The state took the unusual step of instructing workers about proper attire for voters after e-mails circulated warning Obama supporters to leave the shirts and pins at home — or risk being turned away. The confusion caused by the e-mails has prompted accusations of shady maneuvering by both sides in the weeks before an election expected to draw a record number of first-time voters.
The presidential paraphernalia issue, which has caused confusion in at least one other state, came up in Kentucky after e-mails circulated warning Obama supporters that they will be turned away from polls if they wear anything showing support for the Democratic nominee.
"Please, please, please advise everyone you know that they absolutely can not go to the polls wearing any Obama shirts, pins or hats," one says, warning that it's against the law and could get people booted from the polls.
State Board of Elections attorney Katie Gabhart said the First Amendment right to free speech dictates that voters can wear what they want. But she warned that local authorities could try to press charges if someone were dressed like "a walking placard."
The Obama campaign's Kentucky director, Kenya McGruder, said the e-mails appear to be a trick.
"This is something we're going to have to deal with as a campaign," she said. "It's not right, but it happens."
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, called the barrage of e-mails "a dirty trick" aimed at suppressing Democratic voters.
"It is terribly wrong," Sabato said. "Tragically, it is all too common. One would hope the people responsible could be caught and prosecuted."
McCain's Kentucky campaign chairman, state Senate President David Williams, said it appears to him that the Obama campaign is trying to fire up Democrats.
"It's the oldest Democratic trick in the book, to try to convince people they're going to be disenfranchised," Williams said.
A Kentucky attorney general's opinion issued in 1992 said the First Amendment allows voters to wear T-shirts, buttons and other accessories. State Board of Elections Executive Director Sarah Ball Johnson said her agency still considers that opinion relevant.
In Pennsylvania, the Department of State notified local election officials earlier this month that wearing buttons and T-shirts with candidates' names is not grounds for preventing people from voting. People can wear what they want as long as they don't try to campaign in polling places, the department said.
Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the state's top election official, said Thursday he would advise people not to wear campaign paraphernalia to avoid violating the law against campaigning at the polls.
"We want to reassure voters that, although there is an electioneering ban in place, they should not be turned away from voting just because they are wearing campaign materials," he said.
The key to look at here is that there is an electioneering ban, and past elections have shown us that getting to the polls can be a hazard to your health. Don't wear any campaign paraphernalia on Nov. 2. Remember the statement says that we shouldn't be turned away it doesn't say that we will not be turned away. Vote Smart!!!: :xcited7: