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Clothing got North Memphis voters turned away, here's why the poll worker was in the wrong

Voters aren't allowed to wear political paraphernalia supporting a candidate inside a polling location, but clothing mentioning racial injustice is allowed.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — You’ll have to leave your MAGA hat or Joe 2020 shirt at home when you show up to cast your ballots.   

But what about wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt? That’s allowed, but one poll worker was let go for believing it wasn’t.   

Last week an early voting poll worker at Dave Wells Community Center in North Memphis was fired for turning away voters wearing Black Lives Matter clothing. 

“I was a little surprised, I mean it is something we cover in training,” said Shelby County Election Commission administrator. “While he did state that it was his personal opinion that it was a very political statement, his personal opinion makes no difference. Tennessee law is what we pay attention to.”  

Phillips said what those voters were wearing was perfectly acceptable because BLM doesn’t support a specific candidate and the worker in question should have known that.   

“They were specifically trained that a Black Lives Matter hat or t-shirt is perfectly fine.”  

Even after the incident, the worker didn’t want to comply.   

“It became fairly obvious the next day that he was not going to pay attention to what we said so we terminated him,” said Phillips.   

But what can and can’t you wear to the polls?  

“I Can’t Breathe, Black Lives Matter, Ruth Sent Me. All of those are acceptable. Don’t wear anything shirts, hats, buttons, stickers that advocate for a party, a person, candidate, anything on this ballot.”    

 A second worker at the same polling station quit and didn’t show up the next day.  

And for those voters who were turned away from their civic duty?  

“They certainly should have never been turned away,” commented the administrator. “I don’t know if they went to another location, I just don’t know. But if they haven’t voted I hope they will.”


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