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Connecticut secretary of state says WWE apparel OK at polling places

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Connecticut law bans campaign material, including clothing, with 75 feet of polling places
  • Republican candidate's husband files suit against Susan Bysiewicz
  • Vince McMahon accuses secretary of telling poll workers they can turn away WWE fans
  • Bysiewicz says initial reports misstated the law and what she said

(CNN) -- World Wrestling Entertainment chief Vince McMahon filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Connecticut's secretary of state after she said poll workers should enforce a state law banning campaign material, including clothing, within 75 feet of the entrance to a polling place.

But Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz told poll workers that the law and her statements had been misconstrued in media reports.

McMahon's wife, Linda McMahon, is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from the state, where polls show her trailing her Democratic opponent, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

"On behalf of myself, my company, WWE fans and any Connecticut citizen who wants to exercise their constitutional right to vote, I have filed a lawsuit today asserting that Bysiewicz's directive that allows poll workers to refuse registered voters wearing WWE merchandise the right to vote is a flagrant act of censorship and discrimination," said McMahon in a written statement.

The controversy began last week when reports surfaced that Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz had told poll workers they could ask voters wearing clothing bearing the WWE logo to cover it when at the polling place because Linda McMahon is so closely associated with the company.

She left the CEO's post to cast her lot in the Senate race.

State Republicans and McMahon reacted as if Bysiewicz had ordered a complete ban on such clothing and decreed that poll workers could turn voters away if they wore clothing with WWE-logos.

"On what grounds does Bysiewicz base this ridiculous act of voter intimidation?" asked Republican State Party Chairman Chris Healy last week.

Bysiewicz issued a memo to voter registrars and town clerks Tuesday afternoon clarifying her office's position on the state law. The statement said that reports on the controversy "misstate the law and misconstrue the statements from this office."

"The only clothing, items or apparel prohibited by Section 9-236(a) are those that 'solicit' for or against a candidate or ballot question," the secretary wrote. "Each local moderator must assess each situation on a case-by-case basis. In past elections, this office has consistently recommended that voters wearing T-shirts bearing the likeness or campaign logo of candidates, be asked to button their jackets when other voters have complained."

WWE apparel "that does not display the name or photograph of Linda McMahon, U.S. Senate candidate, or the name or logo of Ms. McMahon's campaign does not trigger a violation of the state law," she said.

She also stressed that voters wearing campaign material "should never be told to leave the polls."