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Idaho AG office: Kootenai County ban on political apparel at polls incorrect

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 28, 2020

Associated Press

Associated Press

It is legal to wear T-shirts or buttons supporting candidates or issues to the polls, as long there is no overt politicking done by that person, a new opinion from the Idaho attorney general’s office states.

The opinion published Tuesday said the Idaho law that determines electioneering guidelines most likely prohibits active campaign measures rather than passive ones. The attorney general office’s opinion said passive electioneering includes wearing a T-shirt or button that supports candidates or policies.

The opinion stems from Kootenai County, where the elections office had prohibited voters from wearing political apparel at polling places. Officials cited a state law which bans electioneering at the polls, which is punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and possible arrest. The law prohibits “any practice which interferes with the freedom of voters to exercise their franchise or disrupt(ion of) the administration of the polling place,” the Coeur d’Alene Press reported. The attorney general office’s opinion said the law can be defended as constitutional if only active electioneering methods are banned.

Adams County prosecuting attorney Chris Boyd had previously requested the attorney general’s office to issue an official opinion regarding the legality of denying voters the right to wear political apparel at polling places.

“It is my understanding that Idaho law does not attempt to prohibit voters from wearing such apparel, however, the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney and County Clerk have voiced opposite opinions,” Boyd wrote in his letter.

“If a voter appears at the poll wearing a shirt or button with election-related slogans, graphics, or the like simply goes about their business to vote without interfering with anyone else, making a statement, or any other active conduct related to their message, this office recommends that they be allowed to vote without any discussion of the issue,” the opinion says.However, if a voter attempts to engage in any form of active electioneering, which includes making a speech, intimidating voters or otherwise interfering with those at the polls on political grounds, the attorney general’s opinion recommends voters contact the sheriff’s office.

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