Voters in the Marietta and Warren school districts are being asked to keep the school spirit to a minimum on Election Day.
The Washington County Board of Elections decided this week that no attire promoting schools in either district will be permitted in polling places. Both school districts have issues on the May 3 ballot.
Election board director Peggy Byers said the issue was raised by poll workers after a Feb. 8 special election for the same Warren bond issue that's appearing on the May ballot. The vote took place on the same day as a Marietta-Warren boys basketball game.
"They said that some of the polling places were a sea of blue because some people were headed" to the game, Byers said.
Voters who do come to the polls wearing clothing promoting a school will be given a poncho to cover it while they are in the polling place casting their vote.
The elections board voted unanimously to adopt its poncho policy this week to follow a state directive against displays of "campaign attire or paraphernalia" at polling places, Byers said.
Campaigning close to polling places is prohibited, said Matt McClellan, press secretary for Secretary of State Jon Husted. He said the office doesn't feel wearing a school shirt is electioneering but views it as a local issue.
Carrie Davis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said courts have allowed only narrow restrictions on political speech, saying officials cannot restrict it more than necessary to avoid voter intimidation. She said wearing a T-shirt or button on an issue would be permitted, as long as it didn't encourage a vote one way or the other.