A Memphis, Tennessee, poll worker was fired Monday after turning away early voters who were wearing “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” shirts.
According to Shelby County Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson, the worker was fired Friday, after officials received a call from a witness at the Dave Wells Community Center in Memphis. State law prohibits voters from wearing clothing with the name of a candidate or a political party in a polling place. However, it does not prohibit political statements such as Black Lives Matter.
The number of voters with Black Lives Matter clothing who were turned away by the poll worker is not known, but according to Thompson, it was only a few people. Thompson added the worker believed the clothing was tied to the Democratic Party.
“What he did was patently wrong and he was fired,” Thompson told the Commercial Appeal.
A second poll worker at the location quit the next day. The two poll workers were friends and drove to the polling location together the two days they worked according to Thompson.
Poll workers in Tennessee are required by state law to go through a training session before they become poll workers. The details of the training aren’t clear but according to Elections Administrator Linda Phillips, the worker was given instructions on what to do more than once and did not follow them.
“He was given very clear instructions. He was given clear instructions the next day, and again didn’t pay attention to them. So, he was terminated,” Phillips said.
Black Americans are pushing others to vote through myriad campaigns, including TV, radio, and social media advertisements and events. More than 40 civil rights organizations including the National Urban League, NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund participated in the first National Black Voter Day to help Black voters sign up and develop a plan for voting in this year’s election.
This year’s election will be unlike any before it due to what’s at stake for Democrats and Republicans in an already contentious election. With less than a month left until Election Day, lawsuits are playing out in courts across the country over mail-in and absentee ballots. Donald Trump supporters have also been accused of protesting outside of polling locations to intimidate and scare voters.