What to know about candidate apparel, poll watching before voting in Missouri

Lake Sun Leader

Election officials across the country are expecting record turnout for this year's general election.

But in a year fraught with controversy about politics and candidates, the people administering those contests are asking the public to know the rules before heading to the polls.

Here's what you need to know about what not to wear and how to observe voting (or not) in Missouri on Nov. 3.

Candidate/ballot issue apparel

If you’re heading to the polls early or in person on Election Day, you’re going to want to leave apparel with your candidate’s name, slogan or your position on a ballot issue at home or in your car.

State law prohibits “electioneering” within 25 feet of polling places, which is most commonly used to keep people from handing out pamphlets, posting signs, conducting exit polls or surveying voters within that distance.

The definition of "electioneering" is not specifically defined in state statute, and Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller said he has asked the state's Secretary of State to release a legal opinion from the attorney general on the matter.

But in the meantime, he's playing it safe, asking people to refrain from wearing anything "for a candidate on the ballot or an issue on the ballot" into a polling place.

That means, at least for now, if you have a “Biden 2020” mask or “Make America Great Again” hat, you’re going to want to leave that in the car or cover it up.

You also can’t be visibly carrying pamphlets or signs that advocate for voting a certain way on a candidate or ballot issue.

Poll watching

Another issue voters should be aware of is poll-watching.

President Donald Trump in the first presidential debate drew controversy when he urged his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” on Election Day.

The concept of having poll observers to guarantee fairness and transparency isn’t at all new.

In fact, Missouri law specifically outlines a process by which people can be appointed to observe the process.

But you can’t just walk into a random polling place and start watching.

State law allows the chair of the county committee of any political party to appoint registered voters to be poll observers during the hours of voting and a challenger for each location at which absentee ballots are counted.

In other words, if you’re not on an approved list of poll watchers, you don’t have a right to hang around unless you’re assisting a voter or you’re a minor with a parent, Schoeller said.

You can, however, hang around the outside of the polling place as long as you stay 25 feet away from the door.