Shelby County poll worker fired for turning away voters wearing Black Lives Matter apparel

Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 7:03 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Shelby County poll worker has been fired by the Shelby County Election Commission for turning away voters wearing Black Lives Matter apparel as they attempted to vote.

The Shelby County Election Commission says it’s unacceptable that several voters were turned away from the Dave Wells Community Center Polling Location. One elected official up for re-election says this is an example of voter suppression.

Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips says a handful of voters were turned away for wearing Black Lives Matter apparel inside the polling location at the Dave Well Community Center in North Memphis.

When the election commission was informed about this behavior Thursday, they say they investigated and fired the poll worker on Friday.

“This is not acceptable,” said Phillips. “We covered this in training.”

Posters of state law outside every polling location explain all campaign material is prohibited within 100 feet of the entrance of a polling place and that includes clothing.

Phillips says this law does not apply to Black Lives Matter apparel.

“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,” said Phillips.

“It’s terribly unfortunate,” said Tennessee State Representative Antonio Parkinson.

Parkinson is up for re-election in District 98, which includes the Dave Wells Community Center. He says voters also told him they were turned away for wearing “I Can’t Breathe” masks.

“I’m thankful to the Shelby County Election Commission for being diligent and looking into this and investigating it and doing what they needed to do to rectify the situation,” said Parkinson.

“We don’t tolerate that,” said Phillips.

The election commission says record early voting turnout is continuing Monday with 8,950 people voting as of noon Monday. Early voting in Tennessee continues through Oct. 29.

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