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‘MAGA’ hats OK, ‘Biden’ gear barred at California voting websites

California election guidelines prohibit clothes, indicators and swag urging assist for a selected candidate at polling locations, however state officers have determined no such ban exists on objects emblazoned with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” a mantra championed by President Trump.

If there’s a distinction between a shirt bearing the title of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the ever-present hats featured prominently in Trump’s on-line retailer, it might be misplaced on voters come election day.

“I want to make sure the public knows what the rules are,” mentioned Kammi Foote, the registrar of voters in Inyo County. “I don’t want to be accused of favoritism allowing MAGA gear but telling people with a Biden/Harris mask to remove it.”

California has lengthy differentiated between political slogans and what the legislation defines as “electioneering” — displaying details about a candidate or marketing campaign — at a polling place or vote heart. Last month, state elections officers made clear that gear bearing the Trump slogan wouldn’t be thought of synonymous with exhibiting assist for the president’s reelection.

“Examples of campaign slogans or political movement slogans include but are not limited to: Make America Great Again (MAGA), Black Lives Matter (BLM), Keep America Great (KAG), Vote for Science, and Build Back Better,” mentioned the Sept. 28 guidelines despatched to county registrars of voters.

“State law is clear that you can’t have a candidate’s likeness or name,” mentioned Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “It does not prohibit slogans that could be created for a campaign or a political movement.”

Foote, who’s a registered Republican in a county the place three-fourths of voters are aligned with the GOP, mentioned the opposite slogans cited by state officers appear to connote one thing broader than assist for a single candidate. She has already ordered a provide of paper aprons as a canopy for anybody who reveals up sporting clothes that’s explicitly in favor of a candidate or poll measure. But she mentioned she fears the usual for MAGA objects received’t appear honest to Democrats and people against Trump.

“This particular campaign material is tied to a specific candidate in most voters’ perception,” Foote mentioned. “And perception is reality. I don’t want my poll workers to have to defend this.”

The guidelines associated to clothes, buttons and different objects apply each to voters and to anybody who asks to be an observer at a voting location. But Mahood mentioned extra strict guidelines would apply to ballot employees, who’re thought of to be staff of the county elections workplace and should stay nonpartisan of their duties at voting places.

Quite a few new procedures associated to in-person voting have been added this fall for individuals who should not utilizing the poll mailed to them, prompted by the necessity for added protections to reduce the unfold of COVID-19. Masks current one notable space of concern for improper electioneering. A masks with the president’s most well-liked slogan will probably be allowed, so long as it doesn’t embody his title or likeness.

Elections officers say any “Make America Great” gear that features Trump’s title will probably be prohibited, which may reduce what some Trump critics may in any other case see as a double commonplace.

Existing state legislation limiting the usage of candidate-specific materials at voting places was written in 2009, however the concern has lengthy been a contentious one.

Activists supporting a Mendocino County candidate requested a courtroom to overrule a call by the county’s chief elections officer to bar them from displaying buttons on their clothes close to polling locations. The decide within the case sided with the registrar of voters, writing that being informed to cowl up the buttons was “a very slight inconvenience necessary to safeguard a free and untainted electoral process.” The U.S. Supreme Court embraced a campaigning buffer of 100 toes in a 1992 ruling.

Even so, no candidate has been extra uniquely recognized in trendy instances with a slogan than Trump.

Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), chairman of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, mentioned he was additionally shocked by the allowance of MAGA attire for voters and election observers.

“I think an argument could be made that it should be tightened up a little bit,” Berman mentioned of the state’s electioneering legislation. “Like so many things with this president, we’re encountering a lot of firsts.”

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