T-Shirt Causes Ruckus at Polling Booth | Election Officials Deny Entrance at First

Arizona Woman Fights to Wear Tea Party T-Shirt to Vote

By Marc Lacey|NY Times

Back in May, Diane Wickberg, a grandmother from Flagstaff, Ariz., slipped into the same outfit she wears every Tuesday — a white T-shirt bearing photos of the American flag and the U.S. Constitution, along with the words: “Flagstaff Tea Party — Reclaiming Our Constitution.’’

Tuesday is the day her local tea party meetings are held.

But on that particular Tuesday, May 18, there was a special election taking place and Ms. Wickberg wore her T-shirt to the polls at Bethel Baptist Church. She was confronted by poll workers and told to change the shirt, turn it inside out or cover it up with a jacket. After some back and forth, she was allowed to vote in the T-shirt but only because no other voters were around.

Ms. Wickberg contacted Candace D. Owens, the Coconino County recorder. Ms. Owens could not be reached for comment but Ms. Wickberg said she had told her that electioneering was not allowed in polling places and that she would be turned away if she showed up in the shirt again.

Ms. Wickberg later had a lawyer contact state election officials, who wrote to her that because her T-shirt was not an attempt to influence voters, it should have been allowed. There were no candidates endorsed by the Tea Party in that election and Ms. Wickberg’s chapter does not endorse candidates at all.

Ms. Wickberg wore the shirt again at the Aug. 24 statewide primary elections and again she was confronted by county poll workers. Told she could not vote, she put on a sweater and was allowed to cast her ballot.

With the Nov. 2 elections looming, Ms. Wickberg is leaving nothing to chance. With the help of the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank based in Phoenix, Ms. Wickberg filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court against Ms. Owens and Coconino County seeking permission to wear her T-shirt at the polls.

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