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Bill would allow t-shirts with political messages at polls

In this Nov. 2, 2010, file photo, a voter leaves a polling station on election day in Apache Junction. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Should voters be able to wear their tea party t-shirts — or clothing containing any political message — to the voting booth?

A panel of lawmakers on Monday said they should have that right.

By a unanimous vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that deletes the prohibition against displaying electioneering materials in polling places and redefines electioneering to mean verbally and knowingly inducing others to vote in a certain way or not cast a ballot.

If the bill, HB2722, is approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer, voters would be able to wear clothing that contains a political message, though they would still be barred from attempting to persuade other people to vote a certain way.

State law currently prohibits political messages within 75 feet from polling areas. That includes buttons, stickers and clothing promoting a candidate or political party.

The measure still forbids poll workers and elections observers from political parties to wear, carry or display any electioneering material.

The measure stems from a 2010 lawsuit that the Goldwater Institute filed against Maricopa County’s election officers after they banned t-shirts with the words “tea party” on them.

Karen Osborne, Maricopa County’s election director, said she support the bill with the provision to still exclude poll workers and party watchers from displaying electioneering materials.

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