Tennessee Poll Worker Fired After Turning Away Voters in Black Lives Matter Shirts

Illustration for article titled Tennessee Poll Worker Fired After Turning Away Voters in Black Lives Matter Shirts
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A poll worker in Memphis was fired after refusing to allow people wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts to vote.


County Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson told the Associated Press that the worker was fired on Friday after officials received a call from someone who witnessed a person be turned away. “What he did was patently wrong and he was fired,” Thompson told AP.

While state law doesn’t allow people to wear apparel with the name of a candidate or political party at polling stations, clothing with statements like “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t fall under that law.

The incident occurred at the Dave Wells Community Center, and it’s unclear how many people may have been turned away because of their shirts. Thompson said that it was only a few people, but the fact the number is plural is really not a good look. She added that the poll worker turned away the voters because he thought the shirt was tied to the Democratic party.

“That was pretty bad,” Thompson told The Associated Press. “They were not supposed to be turned away.” Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips told WMC5 that she found the worker’s actions to be “unacceptable.”

“We went over this in training,” Phillips added. “People can’t come into polling locations wearing something that advocates for a candidate or a position on the ballot, but Black Lives Matter is not on the ballot and it doesn’t represent a candidate.”

Dang, so they straight up trained him on this, and he still decided to make an executive decision. That’d be like me seeing a dude wearing a shirt with a bald eagle draped in a Gadsden flag and holding an AR-15 in its talons and being like “Nah, you can’t vote homie. I know what you’re about.”


According to Commercial Appeal, a manager of operations went to the polling location and fired the poll worker on the spot after verifying the details of the incident. A second poll worker, who was a friend of the fired man and drove to work with him, quit the following day.

Early voting began this month in Tennessee and continues through Oct. 29. According to the Hill, early voter turnout has been exceptionally strong in the state. On Monday, Shelby County reported at least 19,240 people voted, which is in the second-highest one day total since 2000.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.



When I go vote in my overwhelmingly white, mostly affluent small town, I’m either wearing a Bullet Club shirt to see if an old person misinterprets it as something radically political (this has happened more than once at a grocery store, leave me alone, I’m just a nerd that wakes up at 2 AM to watch Japanese wrestling), or my Colin Kaepernick Nevada shirsey, to see if they interpret it exactly correctly.