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Tea party, other political shirts not allowed in polls

November 2, 2010

Tea PartyPeople heading to vote Tuesday wearing tea party shirts could be heading into trouble.

The secretary of state's office said Monday the garb has a political message and will not be permitted in voting places. Election officials will tell people to remove tea party buttons and hats, and either change shirts or turn them inside-out.

Tea party leaders say that's a violation of their civil rights, since they believe the law applies only to paraphernalia that promotes a candidate or formal political party.

"It's not what the law says," said Michael Williams of The Georgia Tea Party, based in Cobb County. "We are not a registered party."

Williams questioned whether people wearing shirts with messages from unions, the National Rifle Association and Georgia Right to Life would be stopped.

Matt Carrothers, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said the law extends to any political group or issue. He said local election officials would handle each instance individually.

He cited a section of Georgia law that states: "No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign literature, newspaper, booklet, pamphlet, card, sign, paraphernalia, or any other written or printed matter of any kind" inside any polling place.

Carrothers said the state office held a statewide web conference Friday to explain to election officials that tea party paraphernalia is not allowed in the polling places.

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