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A Shelby County, Tennessee, poll worker was fired Friday after election officials learned that he had turned away voters who were wearing masks and T-shirts that said Black Lives Matter.
The poll worker out of the Dave Wells Community Center in North Memphis was fired after he asked someone wearing a BLM T-shirt to turn it inside-out, the election commission said. Voters are usually asked to do that if they’re wearing clothing with the name of a political candidate on the ballot, but “BLM” is not political, the election commission said.
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 fired in either circumstance.
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 than 29,200 people voted.