Can I Wear Political Clothing When I Vote?

If you’ve voted already, good for you. If not, something to keep in mind: There are actually rules about what you can and cannot wear to the polls.

Really, truly!

It’s rarely an issue because emotions rarely run as high as they have this time around as the message comes from both parties that this is a choice about the soul of the country. And we haven’t seen such a widespread get-out-the-vote effort for as long as I can remember. Especially one with so much merchandise involved.

The good news is that plain old “Vote” merch is fine. The bad news is that, in many states, any item that smacks of political endorsement or campaigning is not. It is considered electioneering and unfair to those voters who want to cast their ballot in peace, with calm and unbiased consideration.

That means — yup — no MAGA hats, Biden buttons or Kamala “I’m Speaking” Harris tees.

And that rule applies to, for example, California, Delaware, Kansas, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont. The restrictions vary slightly from state to state. (In Michigan, you can’t wear partisan gear within 100 feet of a voting station; in Delaware, it’s 50 feet.)

In addition, some states are a little fuzzy on what “political clothing” is, but you can be prosecuted for breaking the law, not to mention being sent home after all the time you’ve waited in line, so better safe than sorry. A very good breakdown of what states allow has been created by the National Conference of State Legislatures and can be found here.

That said, there are items of clothing that you should absolutely wear, like masks. In many states they are even required. Just don’t choose one that has a candidate’s name splashed all over it.

This does, of course, leave some room for more abstract political fashion statements, like white trouser suits (or this year’s version, hot pink ones) or even the Aloha shirt, co-opted by the Boogaloo Boys. If you’re going to wear that one, be very careful you understand what you are saying and to exactly what cause you may be declaring allegiance.

Finally, keep in mind some practical considerations.

In many states, the weather has turned, and standing in line for hours is chilly business. Dress in layers: Start with a thin long underwear shirt, then maybe a sweater, and then a waterproof shell or thin puffer in case of rain and wind. Bring gloves, not just as a precaution against Covid-19 but because your hands are likely to get cold first. Also a hat, just in case. And wear comfortable shoes, with good ankle support.

Don’t forget a water bottle. And if you have one, slinging a trail stool over the shoulder so you have a portable place to sit would be a bonus.

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