Poll Worker Turned Away People in BLM Shirts

Officials say Tennessee worker was fired
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2020 6:25 PM CDT
Poll Worker Turned Away People in BLM Shirts
Memphis Grizz Girls dancer Jaylen Boga waves a sign at the Agricenter International early voting site in Memphis, Tenn. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   (Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal via AP)

Election officials in Tennessee say a poll worker who turned away people in shirts or face masks with the slogans "Black Lives Matter" or "I Can't Breathe" has been fired. Shelby County Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson tells CNN that the worker at a Memphis early voting site told people they couldn't vote unless they turned their shirts inside out. Tennessee bans voters from wearing items linked to a candidate or party at polling places, but Thompson says the worker "brought his personal bias into the job" when he decided that the slogans were connected to the Democratic Party.

Thompson says she believes "only a few" people were turned away, the AP reports. She says poll workers have been trained in what voters are allowed to wear, and the issue of racial justice slogans was specifically addressed in the training. Kristen Clarke, the president of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, tells the Washington Post that firing the worker was the right move. "People are free to wear T-shirts saying 'Stay in school' or 'Smoking is bad for your health.' There can be a range of messages," she says. "And there's nothing in Tennessee law that would ban a voter from communicating support for racial justice." (More Election 2020 stories.)

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