On Monday (October 19), Shelby County Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson announced the termination of a poll worker. The firing came after witnesses at the Dave Wells Community Center — a polling site in Memphis, Tennessee — made a call to local election officials to report people being turned away from the polling place due to their attire.
Early voters were turned away for wearing t-shirts with “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe” on them because the poll worker thought the shirts were affiliated with the Democratic Party. Officials still do not know the exactly how many people the poll worker turned away.
The law in Tennessee does not permit voters to wear items with the name of a political party or candidate in a polling place. Spokeswoman Thompson clarified that statements like “Black Lives Matter” are not banned under this law. She also emphasized that the voters should not have been turned away, describing the incident as “pretty bad.”
Record early voter turnout has been seen throughout the South ahead of the November 3 election date. Other incidents during the early voting period, including the long wait times in lines at polls and network connection issues in Virginia, have spotlighted the work of national and local movements that seek to address voter suppression. In Tennessee, early voting ends October 29.
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