Squawks over chicken costumes at polls | NevadaAppeal.com

Squawks over chicken costumes at polls

SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer

A ban on chicken costumes outside polling sites in Nevada, where they have become akin to politicking against a GOP Senate candidate, doesn’t infringe on free speech, the state’s top election official said Wednesday.

But Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller also noted this loophole: Since someone can’t be prevented from voting based solely on how they’re dressed, there’s nothing to stop a beak-and-feather-clad voter from heading inside to cast a ballot.

Chickens became political scratch in Nevada after Sue Lowden, one of 12 Republicans seeking the party’s U.S. Senate nomination, suggested in April that people barter with doctors for medical care, like when “our grandparents would bring a chicken to the

doctor.”

The Republican nominee will take on Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, in November. Early voting for Nevada’s June 8 primary began Saturday.

State election officials added chicken suits to the list of banned items at polling sites, last week. Lowden campaign manager Robert Uithoven hailed the ban while blaming Reid for perpetuating what’s become known as “bartergate.”

But on Tuesday, ProgressNow Nevada, a Democratic-aligned group, sent a letter to Miller complaining of the costume prohibition.

ProgressNow volunteers protested Wednesday outside a Las Vegas library polling site. Afterward, one chicken-dressed man went in to vote, and came out with an “I voted” sticker stuck on his feathers.

“Dressing up in a chicken costume within 100 feet is illegal because every voter in Nevada now knows that carries a message directed at one particular candidate,” Miller said.

State law prohibits signs, distribution of literature, or wearing campaign buttons, clothing or insignia in support of or against a political party, candidate or ballot question at or near polling cites. Violations are a gross misdemeanor.

But another provision says the law is not intended to prevent a person from voting “solely” for wearing political insigne that cannot be reasonably removed or covered. In such cases, the statute says election workers should take “such action as is necessary” to allow them to vote “as expediently as possible.”