PHOENIX – In a major victory for free speech, Coconino County Recorder Candace D. Owens has decided not to fight a court injunction that lets Diane Wickberg wear her Flagstaff Tea Party T-shirt when she votes on Nov. 2.
“Diane Wickberg can proudly cast her ballot in the upcoming election without fear that she will be harassed by county poll workers for wearing a T-shirt with the U.S. Constitution on it,” said Diane Cohen, the Goldwater Institute’s lead attorney in this case.
U.S. District Judge James Teilborg signed an order late Wednesday that directs Coconino County election officials to not stop anyone from wearing the Flagstaff Tea Party T-shirt when they vote at the polls on election day.
"We hope this victory will provide a civics lesson to government officials who substitute their own subjective values and political biases for objective rules," said Clint Bolick, the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director.
The Goldwater Institute filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Mrs. Wickberg, a grandmother and school fundraiser, against Coconino County and Ms. Owens in September 2010. During a special election on May 18 and again during the state primary on Aug. 24, county poll workers told Mrs. Wickberg that her Flagstaff Tea Party T-shirt constituted electioneering and she had to cover it while voting.
However, the T-shirt does not endorse or oppose any election candidates or ballot measures. The lawsuit says the Coconino County Recorder failed to properly train election workers on enforcing state law against electioneering within 75 feet of a polling place.
The Goldwater Institute had asked Judge Teilborg to stop Coconino County from interfering with Mrs. Wickberg’s constitutional right to wear her T-shirt while voting Nov. 2. Judge Teilborg signed a preliminary injunction taking that step after Ms. Owens agreed late Wednesday not to challenge the order.
The agreement does not end the case, however. Judge Teilborg’s order expires after the Nov. 2 election. The Goldwater Institute will continue to pursue this lawsuit to make sure that Coconino County uses objective standards in the future when enforcing the state’s ban on electioneering at the polls.
Read more about this and other lawsuits filed by the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation to protect individual rights and keep government within its constitutional limits at www.goldwaterinstitute.org/litigation. The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty.