HARTFORD, Conn. – Local election officials in Connecticut are being told they can ask people wearing World Wrestling Entertainment garb to cover it up while voting because it could be considered political advertising for Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, the company’s former CEO.
State election law prevents political advertising within 75 feet of the polls.
Av Harris, spokesman for the secretary of the state’s office, said the state’s advice doesn’t mean that voters wearing WWE apparel will not be allowed to vote.
“But if the local officials feel it’s becoming an issue, they can tell someone to cover that up or come back wearing something else. It will be handled on a case-by-case basis,” Harris said.
McMahon stepped down as WWE’s chief executive officer last fall to run for Senate.
The story, first reported Friday by the Hartford Courant and WTIC-TV, drew immediate criticism from the Republican Party. State chairman Chris Healy accused Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, of voter intimidation.
“Susan Bysiewicz has no legal authority to predetermine who votes based on their nonpolitical clothing,” he said.
McMahon’s husband, company CEO Vince McMahon, said the state was threatening wrestling fans’ constitutional right to vote.
“Denying them their First Amendment rights, regardless if they are Democrat, Republican or Independent is un-American, unconstitutional and blatantly discriminatory,” he said in a statement.
Harris said a similar policy was put in place in California, where voters were advised not to wear “Terminator” garb, while Arnold Schwarzenegger was on the ballot for governor.
McMahon’s ties to the WWE have become a major issue in the Senate campaign.
The state Democratic Party this week filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission after WWE began an Internet-based public relations campaign dubbed “Stand up for WWE.”
The campaign calls on WWE fans worldwide to use the Internet and social networking sites to voice support for the company, which it says is being unfairly attacked in the Senate race.
The Democrats allege McMahon is illegally coordinating with the WWE, which is now run by her husband, Vince.
The campaign and the company have said she has nothing to do with the public relations effort.
The Associated Press