MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis poll worker was fired after he asked someone wearing a T-shirt with the words “Black Lives Matter” to turn it inside-out at the poll, the election commission said.
It happened Friday at the Dave Wells Community Center in North Memphis, said Suzanne Thompson, a spokesperson for the Shelby County Election Commission.
It’s standard protocol for poll workers to ask someone wearing a shirt with the name of a political candidate on the ballot to turn it inside-out when inside the polling place, Thompson said. But in this case, the policy wouldn’t have applied because Black Lives Matter is not political.
The worker was fired on the spot. Elections administrator Linda Phillips said he’d been informed several times what the rules were.
“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.
There is some disagreement about what the actual message on the shirt was. State Rep. Antonio Parkinson said on his Facebook page that the shirt read, “I Can’t Breathe,” a phrase that is also associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Thompson said they were told by an operations manager that the message was “Black Lives Matter,” but said the worker would have been dismissed had the situation been the same with either social justice tagline.
Another poll worker at the site did not return to his job the next day, but was not dismissed, she said.
Early voting at 26 Shelby County sites runs through Oct. 29. Wednesday and Thursday’s turnout set early voting records, the election commission said. As of Monday night, more then 29,200 people voted.
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