Judge to rule on political T-shirts at Michigan polls

I don’t know what the laws are in other states, but in Michigan candidates and campaign material can’t be at closer than 100 feet from any entrance to a polling place. This includes clothing, hats, and buttons. That law is being challenged.

A federal judge has promised to rule within two days on whether Michigan’s ban on wearing campaign T-shirts and buttons inside polling places should be upheld.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan heard oral arguments in the case on Monday. The lawsuit was brought this month by Council 25 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees against Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and state elections director Chris Thomas.

AFSCME attorney Herbert Sanders said the ban oppresses voters’ right to freedom of expression and abridges their right to vote free from intimidation.

“This is going to create a significant disruption in one of the largest elections ever in the history of the country,” he told the judge.

Sanders also called it a “pretext for discrimination,” arguing election officials will arbitrarily enforce the law, which he said has historically led to unequal treatment of minorities.

I’m not sure how not allowing any political T-shirts hurts freedom from intimidation. I think that allowing political t-shirts may threaten freedom from intimidation, not the other way around.

And I guess I’d have to see some evidence that minorities have been treated unfairly over this. Even if they have been, the answer is not to abolish the rule but to enforce it equally.

I recall a comment threat on with one-time MO reader MarinesGirl who lived in the Detroit area and was telling how she was dressing her son up in all sorts of John Kerry stuff to go down and hang out at the polling station on election day, 2004. I emailed her to remind her not to get closer than 100 feet lest they get in trouble. She responded that it was sweet of me to worry, but they had no problem hanging out there for hours talking with people in line about Kerry and how much George Bush sucked and telling jokes and stuff inside the polling station and that no one cared or minded.



  1. Hey Murdoc, I know you dont have much (or maybe any) control over the ads that appear on your site, but this one of the cigarette that “supports the troops” is a bit…hipocritic, as a healthy runner you are Im sure you are not a big fan of it either.

  2. Vitor: In fact, I do have veto rights over those particular ads. Some of the others served by Google, not so much without a lot of hassle. But I have to approve Blogads before they run and I approved this one.

    I’ve only vetoed three ads ever in four years of Blogads, and I’ll totally admit it’s a complete judgment call on my part about what runs and what doesn’t. As long as I don’t think it’s offensive, it runs. I’d run ads from the Obama campaign, though I doubt they’d get their money out of them here.

    I don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked. I think smoking is dirty and smelly and unhealthy. I also think that people who want to smoke should be allowed to and that if cigarette sellers want to advertise to them they should be allowed to.

    For the record, I don’t really agree with government bans on smoking in privately-owned businesses. I prefer businesses to ban smoking, but I don’t approve of governments banning it for them. Different issue.

    So while I don’t agree with smoking and with that everyone would just quit, I also don’t really have an issue with running ads for it. If it was a borderline-tasteless ad, combined with a product I disagree with, I might not have approved it. But it’s a decent ad and the product is not only legal but generally socially acceptable.

  3. I wonder if AFSCME attorney Herbert Sanders would also argue that not allowing guns (ccp or open) within government buildings abridges our right to keep and bear arms?

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