Texplainer

Texplainer: Can I wear my campaign gear to the polls?

Can I wear my partisan political gear when I show up to vote?

A Trump fan waits for a Donald Trump rally to begin at Gilley's in Dallas on June 16, 2016.
Texplainer

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Hey Texplainer: Can I wear my “Make America Great Again” hat or “Nasty Woman” T-shirt to the polls?

While your campaign shirts, hats, socks and buttons look great during a trip to the mall, leave them at home when you head to the polls.

You could be turned away from voting in Texas if you’re sporting your campaign gear, according to Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

"You're not allowed to electioneer at the polls," Pierce said. "That would obviously include things like campaign T-shirts or a hat."

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an electioneering ban at polling places, meaning that states had the power to create laws to prevent voter intimidation and ban electioneering around polling places.

According to Texas law, a person “may not electioneer for or against any candidate, measure, political party” within 100 feet of the voting site during early voting or on Election Day.

Texas' electioneering laws are similar to laws in most states, according to Doug Chapin, director of the Election Academy at the University of Minnesota. 

"The intent is to allow polling places to function as intended by giving voters and election workers space from campaign activity and cast undisturbed ballots," Chapin said in an email. 

Texas voters are usually asked to turn their campaign shirts inside out, put on a jacket or come back to vote later if it's something that cannot be covered, Pierce said. 

Candidate political garb isn't the only thing that can be construed as electioneering. In 2012, a woman in Williamson County was asked to cover up her shirt that read "Vote the Bible."

Voters should also be cautious when pulling out their Clinton or Trump Halloween masks, Pierce said. In all these cases, it's up to the discretion of the election judge at the polling site to determine if clothing can be construed as electioneering. 

It’s not just a warning – it's the law. Just ask a Bulverde man who showed up to his polling location Monday in a Donald Trump hat and “Basket of Deplorables” T-shirt. He was arrested after refusing to turn his shirt inside out, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

It’s unlikely you’ll wind up in jail, Pierce said, but it’s best to leave your partisan attire at home.

Bottom Line: Don't show up to your polling location in your Trump or Clinton shirt unless you're prepared to stand 100 feet away from the building.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Texplainer: Am I breaking Texas law if I take a ballot selfie while casting my vote?
  • I hear that a poll watcher may be lingering nearby while I vote. What does Texas law say they can and cannot do?
  • What's an anti-Trump Republican in Texas to do on Election Day? Aside from leaving the top of your ballot blank, here are your options.