HARTFORD, Conn. — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Connecticut's top election official to allow voters to wear World Wrestling Entertainment garb to the polls, ruling that it could not be considered political advertising for Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, the company's former CEO.
U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton issued a stipulated order requiring Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz not to apply state election laws that restrict political advertising within 75 feet of polling places to the wrestling fans who wear WWE clothing, paraphernalia or merchandise on Tuesday.
Vince McMahon, the CEO of WWE and Linda McMahon's husband, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking to stop local election workers from asking WWE fans to cover up their wrestling apparel at the polls.
He accused Bysiewicz, a Democrat, of violating voters' free speech rights when her spokesman said such items could be construed as political given Linda McMahon's candidacy.
But Bysiewicz has said her office's position had been misunderstood. She issued a memo to local registrars of voters clarifying how only clothing or other items that solicit for or against a candidate or ballot question should be prohibited.
State election law prevents political advertising within 75 feet of the polls. Arterton said in her ruling that any clothing, paraphernalia or merchandise that actually bears the name, likeness or campaign logo of any candidate will still be restricted.
Vince McMahon praised the judge's decision, which she ordered to be disseminated to the local registrars and poll workers no later than 72 hours before the election.
"I am pleased that Connecticut voters have had their freedom of expression to wear WWE merchandise and their right to vote restored," he said.
Bysiewicz also praised the ruling.
"Vince McMahon was trying to make an issue where there wasn't one. So the lawsuit didn't have traction because it didn't have a legal basis," Bysiewicz said. "So I am happy that this issue is cleared up so we can just move on with a smooth election."
Linda McMahon stepped down as CEO last fall to run for Senate. WWE had been a hot topic in the race to fill the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, who is retiring. McMahon now trails Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the state's attorney general, by double digits, according to recent polls.
Vince McMahon has voiced concern about how his wrestling company has been portrayed throughout the Senate race. He recently launched an Internet-based public relations campaign dubbed "Stand up for WWE" to encourage fans to voice support for the company.