Miami-Dade Poll Worker Said Voter Couldn't Wear "Black Lives Matter" Shirt

Florida law permits voters to wear apparel with social or political messaging.
Florida law permits voters to wear apparel with social or political messaging. Photo by Stephen Velasco/Flickr
This past Saturday, Miami-Dade resident Anna Kenney headed out to cast her ballot at an early voting site at Florida International University.

Inside the school's Student Academic Success Center, Kenney stepped up to the registration desk to start the voting process. But she tells New Times that before she could hand over her ID, a woman behind the desk started making a fuss.

"She was like, "Miss, Miss, Miss — you can't vote wearing that shirt,'" Kenney recounts.

That morning, Kenney had thrown on a black T-shirt that bore the message, "I believe Black lives matter." The woman at the check-in desk gave Kenney an ultimatum: Go home and change her shirt, or go somewhere to turn it inside out.

Flustered and upset, Kenney went to the bathroom and flipped her shirt inside out.

"I was able to vote, but I was just kind of shocked by that," she says. "My feeling walking away from it was that I present as a white Latina woman, and if it's happening to me, it's very likely happening in other places."

As soon as county offices opened on Monday morning, Kenney called the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections to file a complaint. She tells New Times that an elections worker apologized and confirmed that what happened to her was not proper protocol.

"From my perspective, I'm not looking to be the poster child. I just wanted to make sure that they're aware this has happened and that people are able to vote," Kenney says.

Suzy Trutie, Miami-Dade's deputy supervisor of elections, confirms that the FIU poll worker was out of line. According to the Florida Division of Elections' Polling Place Procedures Manual, poll workers and poll watchers are barred from wearing campaign attire, but voters are permitted to wear apparel that contains social or political messaging.

"We spoke with Ms. Kenney to apologize for the incident and inconvenience," Trutie writes via email. "The correct protocol — a voter is allowed to wear such items as buttons, hats, T-shirts, etc. while voting — was reinforced verbally to poll workers."

According to Trutie, Kenney's is the only complaint about voters' attire that has been filed with the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections during the current election cycle.

Kenney hopes her experience can help educate other voters about their rights.

"For me, the biggest thing is people knowing that their voice is important and voting is important," she says. "I want to make sure that this never happens to anyone else."
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb