Campaigns/Elections

Pantsless at the Polling Place

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The Commonwealth of Virginia has a dress code at its polling places—no buttons, no campaign shirts, no campaign hats. The goal: To avoid violating the ban on attempting to influence someone's vote within 40 feet of a polling place. But many think that the dress code has to do with keeping the ballot secret. Consider self-identified Republican voter Alex Tompkins:

"It makes sense that you shouldn't walk into a polling place advertising who you're going to vote for. They've got curtains for a reason… keep your vote private."  

No one should be compelled to reveal his vote. But secrecy in the voting booth is to protect the voter from coersion or retribution for an unpopular vote, not to protect others from knowing who you're voting for—there's no civic duty to keep your vote private. Hell, Tompkins just declared his party affiliation on television. His neighbors have probably been driving by his McCain-Palin yard sign for weeks. 

Historically, voting was anything but private. Jill Lepore has a great article in The New Yorker this week about the slapdash, totally public nature of voting for most of American history.

Still, the Virginia rule raises a vital question: Would poll workers be required to make you remove a pro-Obama  thong? Probably not, as long as your pants aren't low-rise enough to reveal your, ahem, party affiliation. But people wearing campaign t-shirts will be asked to turn them inside out. The real concern: What if these sweatpants had McCain's name written across the butt? And what if you were wearing the aforementioned Obama thong underneath? A secret ballot indeed…

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  1. The ACLU will be all over the thing thing like…a guy on a thong.

  2. What if you had a shirt that read, “I’m voting for the black douchebag with big fucking ears”?

  3. When I wear a thong, it says nothing on it, but my short shorts say “JUICY” on the ass.

    Oh shit, did I say that out loud?

  4. When I wear a thong, it says nothing on it, but my short shorts say “JUICY” on the ass.

    You tease

  5. “Pantsless at the Polling Place”

    Is there anything liberals won’t do to get out the vote?

  6. What if you had a shirt that read, “I’m voting for the black douchebag with big fucking ears”?

    Or the guy with the shirt that reads: “I’m voting for the gimpy vet who looks like a Cylon crossed with a squirrel”

    Someone could do a brisk business come Election Day.

  7. It’s gonna suck trying to vote in VA with this tattoo of Joe Biden nude on the back of my neck. I wish i hadn’t cut the mullet off.

  8. On the other hand, if you give money to a candidate – a far more serious commitment – you have to report it so we can let, say, your employer, your neighbor, and your elderly uncle with the huge trust fund know exactly whom you back with cash.

  9. You tease

    Relentlessly.

    “I’m voting for the black douchebag with big fucking ears”?

    If you had real balls your shirt would say “I’m voting for the nigger”.

  10. The kind of women who wear sweatpants are not generally the kind of women who ought to wear thongs. That is all.

  11. Virginia loves dress codes. To take the Bar Exam there, you have to wear a business suit. However, they don’t want your professional shoes clacking away while poeple are dimly recalling the Rule Against Perpetuities, so you also have to wear sneakers.

  12. I remember when my school was a polling place, and they warned us students to not wear anything political. I really wish I had some political shirt so I could have been sent home.

  13. The Obama thong is plain creepy. Seriously, he’s a person, not a band. I wonder how Michelle Obama would feel about women running around with her husband’s name on their underpants.

    Obama girls are just creepy.

  14. Does that only apply to real candidates?

    Like, can I go in there with a button that says “TEA!”?

  15. Would Cthulu ’08 shirts be ok?

  16. I wonder how Michelle Obama would feel about women running around with her husband’s name on their underpants

    I imagine she feels that it is an indicator she will be First Lady, and that pleases her.

    But I am always quick to assign power-hunger motives to politicians and their families. Maybe she does mind.

  17. Epi —
    LOL.
    I’m waiting for an Obama T-shirt that has a picture of him with the caption, “Hey, where are all the white women at?”

  18. I wonder how Michelle Obama would feel about women running around with her husband’s name on their underpants.

    Well, a good camel toe will render the words illegible, anyway.

  19. Fair enough.

    I don’t mean to sound partisan. Any person who would wear underpants with a politician’s name on them is a frakking weirdo. It doesn’t matter if they say “McCain”, “Obama”, “Ron Paul”, “Barr”, or someone else.

    I’ll just give people who wear them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were received as a gift.

  20. It’s gonna suck trying to vote in VA with this tattoo of Joe Biden nude on the back of my neck. I wish i hadn’t cut the mullet off.

    I love the fact that expressions of enthusiasm about Joe Biden are immediately recognizeable as humor.

    I thought SNL did a great job capturing his not-that-greatness. Not-that-great can be a tough mark to hit.

  21. All I know, smacky, is that you’re not going to see a lot of boxers with the words “Dick Sweat” on them.

  22. What if you could still see the Obama (amabO) even though I turned my T shirt inside out? Would they make me take it off and vote in my bra? Since I am an overweight, 55 year old woman, I can see the headline now – “Voters fall ill at Alexandria polling place.”

  23. joe,
    lol.

    Though I’d be willing to buy boxers that said “Tippecanoe and My Cock, Too.”

  24. All I know, smacky, is that you’re not going to see a lot of boxers with the words “Dick Sweat” on them.

    Isn’t it “Dick Swett”? Sorry to be pedantic, the joke still stands.

    Any person who would wear underpants with a politician’s name on them is a frakking weirdo. It doesn’t matter if they say “McCain”, “Obama”, “Ron Paul”, “Barr”, or someone else

    What about Laura Roslin? I admit that some girls with Gaius Baltar thongs would be pretty cultish, but hey, that’s what he does, right?

  25. Honestly, i’d be the poll worker looking for the hot 20-something co-ed in an Obama t-shist without a bra underneath. Respect ma authoritah!

  26. Jill Lepore has a great article in The New Yorker this week about the slapdash, totally public nature of voting for most of American history.

    Not sure what to make of her aside about gun control at the end of the article. The most surprising revelation to me (but one that made sense after reading it) was how the pre-printed government ballot, generally seen as a “good government” reform (and I would overall agree with that), made it easier to prevent blacks from voting.

  27. Warty,

    The kind of women who wear sweatpants are not generally the kind of women who ought to wear thongs.

    A simple trip to my college campus would dispel this perception. It’s frighteningly common. As is wearing five super-tight t-shirts instead of a bra.

  28. Isn’t it “Dick Swett”?

    Well, that’s another reason.

  29. What if you had a shirt that read, “I’m voting for the black douchebag with big fucking ears”?

    You’re voting for Will Smith?

    And didn’t reason sell thongs too? That was creepy. Not as creepy as the Father’s Day ads (which are creepy in a Gordon Jump on Different Strokes sorta way), but still creepy.

  30. What about Laura Roslin? I admit that some girls with Gaius Baltar thongs would be pretty cultish, but hey, that’s what he does, right?

    I’m sorry but I don’t speak geek.

  31. Wait a minute, smacky. What about an Urkobold thong?

  32. And didn’t reason sell thongs too? That was creepy. Not as creepy as the Father’s Day ads (which are creepy in a Gordon Jump on Different Strokes sorta way), but still creepy.

    Yeah! Where’s the Kerry Howley boxer briefs and the Ron Bailey thongs? There must be at least some market demand for a Tim Cavanaugh girdle.

  33. smacky,

    You don’t speak geek or Greek? Cuz I know you can read Latin and Greek.

  34. Bans on political ads near polling places are actually pretty common. Cracking down on t-shirts is more of a side effect than a goal. The main purpose is to avoid campaigning inside the polling place.

    The t-shirt is not the issue. The issue is the person who tries to figure out the exact limit of what crosses the line from passive expressions of opinion to active campaigning inside the polling place (which is supposed to be a neutral zone). So finally you just have to say “Take it outside.”

    If there was a way to draw that line clearly and without banning t-shirts, I’d be in favor of it.

  35. I’m sorry but I don’t speak geek.

    That’s pretty funny coming from an Urkobold contributor.

    OH NO HE DIDN’T! (snap)

  36. A simple trip to my college campus would dispel this perception. It’s frighteningly common. As is wearing five super-tight t-shirts instead of a bra.

    On this warm and beautiful Autumn day, I can indeed confirm that, as I just ate at the Potbelly near joe’s alma mater, GWU. But, our girls only wear 2 super tight t-shirts.

    I could stand on that corner over there all day, perfectly happpy to play the part of the creepy uncle.

  37. *At Episiarch*

    Calm down Rosie.

  38. What about an Urkobold thong?

    I had no part in that particular merchandising scheme. I do wonder how many the Urkobold has sold, though.

  39. smacky,

    I choose to believe you modeled in them.

  40. Why does everyone assume the clothing in question would have Obama on it? Is everyone so sure that no one wants to be identified with McCain … especially at a polling place? Wow!

  41. One more reason to side with Evil Fiziks Types in our war with the Urkobold: We don’t market out blogs by selling thongs.

  42. Largely due to the fact that physicists look terrible in thongs. We, on the other hand, tend to look like this (adjust viewing for gender).

  43. Episarch,

    Ah, I know why you assumed I was a Battlestar Galactica viewer…it must have been my adjectival use of the word “frak”. I’ve never actually seen an episode. The word is more or less now officially in mainstream, commonplace usage even among us non-geeks. 🙂

  44. smacky, you keep implying that you are not a geek, yet you are a minion of the Urkobold. As we all know, all of the Urkobold’s minions are either geeks, ruminants, or whatever the fuck ProL is (something like Gonzo maybe?), so since you are not a moose, you must be a geek.

    Q.E.D.

  45. Epi,

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  46. Epi,

    Stop calling her a geek. I’m 100% confident that smacky does not bite the heads off chickens at a carnival. I’ll go so as to vouchsafe that she doesn’t work at a carnival at all.

  47. Episiarch,

    Pro Lib has stated that she knows Greek and Latin so I am inclined to believe that she is a geek. However, I was sorta dating a girl who was majoring in Latin. She was fun and anything but a geek where it counted. Take from that what you will.

  48. I’ll go so as to vouchsafe that she doesn’t work at a carnival at all.

    Thank you for the vote of confidence, Sugar. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me ever all week.

  49. Just doing what I can to keep the conversation elevated. Carny status is a nasty insinuation.

    By the way… the Obama thong is not as creepy as the Obama dildo.

  50. OK, fine, Urkobold minions are not geeks, they are chumps. Happy now?

  51. SugarFree,

    AWESOME!!! GWB buttplug was hilarious!

  52. Naga,

    And in case you missed the Sarah Palin sex doll.

    What’s the percentage of lefties buying it for a good old fashion hate fuck? (The uses on the right are actually too sad to contemplate.)

  53. SugarFree,

    Well I don’t remember her tits being that perfect but . . . I’ll buy.

  54. She’s had five kids. Even with a charitable imagination, I can say with high confidence that they probably look like they’ve gone through a woodchipper.

  55. In Texas it’s 100 ft from the door; and if I can read your thong through your pants, you’re out’ta here, that is if you don’t remove the offending item 🙂

  56. *winces at SugarFree’s description of woodchipper*

  57. I am about as libertarian as they come. But, so long as we are going to insist on mob rule in this country I support a rule such as this. I agree that a poling place should be as neutral as possible and that incudes the participants in mob rule.

  58. Damn, smacky. A little warning would be nice.

  59. smacky,

    Your photoshop abilities are mighty indeed.

  60. Naga,

    I don’t own Photoshop. You can buy such a underpants at CafePress, where I…borrowed…the image from.

  61. smacky,

    You should take credit and compliments for deeds regardless of your role in said deeds.

  62. In Texas it’s 100 ft from the door; and if I can read your thong through your pants, you’re out’ta here, that is if you don’t remove the offending item 🙂

    And good lord some people get offended when you tell them that. I’m so glad I don’t work elections anymore.

  63. Late to the party, but if anyone’s still reading this post,

    “Tippecanoe and My Cock, Too.”

    Good one. How about “Fifty-Four Forty or Fuck!”

    …all of the Urkobold’s minions are either geeks…

    Riiiight. This coming from someone who actually watched Stargate? Fucking Stargate? Shit.

  64. Not to un-hijack the post or anything, but if Virginia is anything like Florida, they won’t stop you from wearing a political t-shirt if you’re actually voting, but they will tell you to shut up if you’re talking about the candidates.

  65. This coming from someone who actually watched Stargate? Fucking Stargate? Shit.

    Waidaminute…the movie or the show? The movie sucked balls, but SG-1 had some things going for it.

  66. JW – Other people must agree with you, since the show ran for a few years. I was never able to watch more than 10-15 minutes of any episode, and gave up trying after 3 or 4 times.

  67. The t-shirt is not the issue. The issue is the person who tries to figure out the exact limit of what crosses the line from passive expressions of opinion to active campaigning inside the polling place [. . .]

    If there was a way to draw that line clearly and without banning t-shirts, I’d be in favor of it.

    Uh, how about buttons, shirts, thongs, tattoos, etc. = “passive expressions of opinion” and speech-making, accosting, carrying large placards, banners, etc. = “active campaigning”.

    There, that was easy. Come on thoreau, this isn’t exactly quantum physics. 😉

  68. as far as political slogans go, how about these:

    Edited:
    “A sausage in every box!”
    “Don’t swap wives in midstream”
    “Mumble softly as you suck on my big dick”

    Unedited:
    “Full dinner pail”
    “Pour it on ’em, Harry!”

    Tied for #1″:
    “We Polked you in ’44, We shall Pierce you in ’52”
    “All the way with LBJ!”

    Thanks to Wikipedia for ideas.

  69. Brian Courts-

    Sounds good. Now, consider the fact that people not voting are still allowed to hang out at the polling place to observe (a necessary practice if the election procedure is to be transparent). So, a whole bunch of people wearing t-shirts for a particular candidate show up. It suddenly looks less like a neutral zone.

  70. thoreau – In Florida, poll watchers are told they cannot show up wearing anything relating to the election.

  71. burnt bridges | October 15, 2008, 2:52pm | #
    In Texas it’s 100 ft from the door; and if I can read your thong through your pants, you’re out’ta here, that is if you don’t remove the offending item 🙂

    Oklahoma’s got a ban of some sort, especially not allowing campaign signs within a certain distance of the polling place. Don’t know about buttons or stuff, but I imagine they’re a no-no. Since there’s a parking lot outside the door and I haven’t seen people removing fenders from cars, I assume bumper stickers are ok.

  72. Other people must agree with you, since the show ran for a few years. I was never able to watch more than 10-15 minutes of any episode, and gave up trying after 3 or 4 times.

    I know what you mean. I saw the pilot episode when it was on in the late 90’s and dismissed it immediately as something for 12-year olds. I didn’t watch it again until the 7th season, and was hooked instantly.

    I would agree with you on the early seasons. But, if you like dry and irreverent humor, it’s not too bad at all. Weirdly, Richard Dean Anderson really made the show (yeah, I know what that sounds like, but he’s actually a decent comic actor, at least for the O’Neill character he played).

  73. So, a whole bunch of people wearing t-shirts for a particular candidate show up. It suddenly looks less like a neutral zone.

    thoreau, I don’t think that makes it all that much harder to deal with using my simple rules. But ok, I’ll add a couple more: have a limit on how many people can actually be in the polling place at one time (there probably is one). Similarly there could easily be a time limit on how long any one non-voting person could loiter. Simply make those limits reasonable enough that a whole bus load of campaigners can’t just stand there all day in the polling place. And if all they can do is stand there (remember no speeches or accosting voters), really how threatening are they (and how much incentive for a campaign to waste time with such ineffective methods)?

    I still say my simple rules would work fine. I just don’t think it’s that hard, nor is the danger that great, that there needs to be a complete ban on what should be the most protected category of speech.

  74. thoreau-

    If there was a way to draw that line clearly and without banning t-shirts, I’d be in favor of it.

    I like the Ohio law I enforced as a “poll worker” in 2004.

    No political advocacy 100 ft from the entrance of a polling location.

  75. smacky-

    Yeah! Where’s the Kerry Howley boxer briefs?

    Kerry wants to sell her “worn” underwear?!!

    Has she heard about E-Bay? I’m thinking a link here would generate some substantial traffic…

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