A Tennessee poll worker was fired on Friday after he turned away voters who were wearing shirts that said, “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.”
The unidentified man worked the polls at the Dave Wells Community Center in Memphis, according to Fox8. He reportedly told an unknown number of voters they could not wear the shirts into the community center. He also told a person wearing the BLM shirt they should turn the top inside out.
Suzanne Thompson, a spokesperson for the Shelby County Election Commission, confirmed the worker was no longer employed. Another poll worker did not show up to work again but they were not terminated.
“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,” she told Fox8.
Tennessee state law bars voters from wearing clothing and paraphernalia that promotes a political candidate or position. The legislation does not consider phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” political.
Linda Phillips, Shelby County’s administrator of elections, told Memphis station WMC the situation “is not acceptable.”
“We covered this in training,” she 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.”
Tennessee state Rep. Antonio Parkinson said poll worker’s behavior was “terribly unfortunate.”
“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.