What you can and can’t wear to the polls in California, Solano County

Deputy Registrar of Voters John Gardner specifies the rules

Make Racism Wrong Again Political Design" Mask by javierstabile | Redbubble
MAGA masks and Black Lives Matter masks are allowed, but masks with candidate’s names are not allowed.
Vallejo Times Herald, By Katy St. Clair, October 29, 2020 

California’s laws regarding electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place are pretty explicit: No signs or clothing with the name of a candidate, nor his or her likeness or logo.

So why is MAGA “Make America Great Again” attire acceptable?

Deputy Registrar of Voters John Gardner says MAGA is OK because it denotes a political idea, but “Ridin’ With Biden” is forbidden because it specifically denotes a candidate.

“It can’t have a candidate’s name on it,” he said. “But slogans are OK.”

In other words, “Build Back Better” will fly but not “Ridin’ With Biden.”

California’s Secretary of State came to the decision that slogans such as MAGA or Build Back Better are OK, but not all states agree, such as New York, which forbids MAGA merchandise near the polls.

Gardner pointed out that when Barack Obama was running for president, people were allowed to wear “Yes We Can” or “Change we can believe in” apparel.

And in 2016, “I’m With Her” for the Hillary Clinton campaign was fair game, too. Other political speech such as “Black Lives Matter” is also permitted.

However, you can forget “I Like Ike” because election officials don’t want to plant names in the heads of people who might walk into the polls not knowing who they are going to vote for, he said.

California bans what is known as “electioneering” within 100 feet of a voting booth. According to state law that means voters and others can’t make any “visible display or audible dissemination of information that advocates for or against any candidate or measure on the ballot.”

Banned stuff includes, but isn’t limited to, the following:

  • A display of a candidate’s name, likeness, or logo.
  • A display of a ballot measure’s number, title, subject or logo.
  • Buttons, hats, pencils, pens, shirts, signs or stickers containing electioneering information.

Consider some other things you can’t do within 100 feet of a California voting booth:

  • Solicit a vote or talk to a voter about how to mark his or her ballot.
  • Place a sign describing a voters’ qualifications or speak to a voter on the subject of his or her qualifications.
  • Take photos or video of voters entering or exiting a polling place.
  • Circulate an initiative, referendum, recall or nomination petition or any other petition.

More information on what is and is not permitted at polling places can be found by going to the Solano County Registrar of Voters website.

— Ryan Carter of Los Angeles News Group contributed to this story.