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In Pennsylvania Voting, Words Matter. Fashion Doesn’t.

What did you wear to the polling place today?

Among the potential problems with voting, fashion would seem to rank fairly low on the scale. Yet many state laws specifically prohibit voters from wearing shirts or hats bearing the names or slogans of political candidates in polling places.

When they do, in most cases voters are asked either to remove or cover up such items, but not all states have a blanket prohibition. In Pennsylvania, where state law prohibits overt electioneering for a candidate, voters can wear clothing that has a candidate's name or slogan on it. But not all poll workers seem to be aware of that rule.

Multiple callers to the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline from Pennsylvania voters today said they were told they could not vote while wearing clothing with campaign themes or images. Many were told they would need to wear a jacket or other piece of clothing to obscure the offending article. Almost all of them reported they were then able to vote.

Pennsylvania law reads: "No person, when within the polling place, shall electioneer or solicit votes for any political party, political body or candidate, nor shall any written or printed matter be posted up within the said room, except as required by this act."

So it's not what you wear to the polls in Pennsylvania. It's what you say.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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