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Is Voting In Costume Legal In California?

It’s the latest viral Internet video: Ukranian police arresting someone dressed as the Star Wars character Chewbacca, who drove Darth Vader to the polls. With Halloween on the horizon, we couldn’t help but wonder: Can Californians wear costumes to vote?

The best way to describe the video may be to quote the Ukranian police Instagram: “Nothing unusual here,” the caption reads. “Just Chewbacca detained for being without documents while driving Darth Vader to the elections in Odessa.” 

Chewbacca is the large, furry – and fictional – animal known as a Wookie.

Now, the police arrested “Chewy” because he or she didn’t have identification – not for wearing a costume to vote. But it does raise the question: Could I dress up as a Wookie the next time I go to the polls?

The answer is yes, says Kim Alexander with the California Voter Foundation – as long as Chewbacca, or another Star Wars character, isn’t running for office.

So you know all those Donald Trump costumes popping up these days? “If somebody showed up in one of those next year if he’s on the ballot,” Alexander says, ”that would be considered electioneering and that would be illegal” – same as if you wore a campaign t-shirt or button to the polls.

You also can’t use your costume to intimidate other voters. Beyond that, you’re good to go.

And just possibly, you’ve found the solution to California’s abysmal voter turnout.

“Maybe if people put as much creativity into costumes on Election Day as they do on Halloween,“ Alexander says, “we’d have more people turn out to the polls and want to see how everybody else is dressed up.”

Until then, there’s always Ukraine.


Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio