Happy Ending to the Arizona Tea Party T-Shirt Case


In our January 2011 issue, I reported on a lawsuit challenging discrimination at the polls in Arizona against people wearing politically themed T-shirts. The scoop:

When Diane Wickberg went to vote in a May special election in Flagstaff, Arizona, she was wearing a T-shirt bearing an emblem on both sides that included the phrase "We the People," a depiction of the American flag and the U.S. Constitution, and the words "Flagstaff Tea Party—Reclaiming Our Constitution Now." Two poll workers ordered her to change or cover her shirt…..Coconino County Recorder Candace Owens later warned her that she would not be allowed to vote at a polling station in the county again if she wore the shirt…..

a lawsuit filed in September with the help of the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based think tank….charges that threatening to deprive Wickberg of her voting rights for wearing a Tea Party shirt violates her First Amendment right to free expression.

A happy ending to this one, announced this month by the Goldwater Institute in a press release:

Coconino County has accepted a settlement in a federal lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute on behalf of Flagstaff voter Diane Wickberg…..

Coconino County has agreed to implement objective standards at voting precincts to enforce the state electioneering law while protecting the voters' right to free speech…..

Specifically, Coconino County's new rules define electioneering to provide that only conduct that advocates for or against a candidate, a political party, or an issue on the ballot may be banned at the polling site. The County has also agreed to provide additional training to poll workers for objective enforcement of election laws and to protect against discrimination in the polling place.

While I question the First Amendment bona fides of even the milder version of "electioneering" law implicit here–advocate for candidates or parties in a peaceful manner in whatever way you want wherever you want, say I, even near the polling place where it might matter the most–it's a nice victory for political speech even in its limited context.

NEXT: Source Code and Rubber

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  1. The COTUS that I swore an oath (x3) too, how does it work?

  2. I love a happy ending!

  3. Good for her. I will go out on a limb here and support electioneering laws that would specifically forbid harrassment; I don’t want to wade to a poll through a throng of shouting, screaming partisans waving signs and flags in my face, kicking me in the balls and stabbing me with icepicks (which is what would immediately happen if all such laws were scrapped). Other than that, I never got the point. The distance is usually short enough that you still see people right on the edge of the magic bubble, and you can tell who they’re stumping for.

    1. kicking me in the balls and stabbing me with icepicks

      There are other laws against that already. What the anti-electioneering laws do is prevent them from getting close enough to make you think they’re going to do that.

      Of course in PA the bubble is so tiny that you do in fact have to run the gauntlet of pamphleteers to get into the polling place. Pittsburgh is so deep blue that it’s not worth the effort for most campaigns, but I’d imagine in swing areas of the state it gets pretty harrowing.

  4. Even that mild standard is not enforced evenly. During the last day of early voting for the ’08 Texas primaries I went out to vote and then to hold up my RP sign afterwards. There was a girl there handing out fliers for Obama as well. Of course the police officer came up and told me to leave but didn’t tell the other one. I said I wasn’t leaving if she wasn’t. She gave in but I stayed in my car and watched awhile, sure enough the girl was out giving out Obama fliers 5 minutes later.

    1. What part of Texas?

    2. How is that uneven enforcement? The content of a sign is visible from some distance, while fliers are not. Also he did make her stop handing out fliers before leaving, right?

  5. A happy ending guaranteed when voting in a party T-shirt-was it wet?

    1. All you small dick boys are the same. Sexist pigs!

  6. This is not exactly a new issue. One of my sisters was required to wear a jacket over her “The Grin Will Win” tee-shirt, showing a grinning peanut, while going to the polls waaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1976. “No electioneering within 50 feet of the polls” goes back a lot further than that.

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  8. Prada bags is not cheap though, but you will not regret buying it. A Prada made handbag will stand the test of time.

  9. What’s there to be said about a system of government in which major decisions about representation are made, presumably, based on the content of tee shirts that you might happen to see on your way into a voting booth?

    I know, I know – that it’s a better form of government than any other. Small comfort.

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