A poll worker from Tennessee was fired Friday after turning away voters who were wearing “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, violating his training as a nonpartisan election worker.
Shelby County Election Commission spokesperson Suzanne Thompson said that the decision comes after they received a call from a witness at the Dave Wells Community Center in Memphis.
Stationed at a Memphis early voting site, the poll worker had told voters wearing the said shirts to turn it inside out before allowing them to vote.
Tennessee law bans voters and poll workers to wear items that clearly endorse a political candidate or party in a polling place, but the state law did not prohibit statements such as “Black Lives Matter”.
Prior to the elections, poll workers were trained in what voters can and cannot wear to the polling station, which includes clothing with “Make America Great Again” or “Biden-Harris”.
According to Thompson, the fired poll worker “brought his personal bias into the job”, and thought that the statements were tied to the Democratic Party.
“That is in your handout in training that that is an acceptable thing to wear,” said Thompson.
“That was pretty bad,” she added, “They were not supposed to be turned away.”
The fired poll worker had been informed about the rules several times, according to elections administrator Linda Phillips.
“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,” said Phillips.
Tennessee Rep. Antonio Parkinson said that the same polling station has had prior incidents of voters being told not to wear clothing associated with Black Lives Matter.
“This didn’t even just start,” he said, “It was happening in the primary first.”
Ironically, the polling place in question is an area where a majority of residents is Black, said Parkinson.