Man mistakenly turned away from voting over pro-Trump T-shirt

Elise Solé
Greg Malafronte says he wasn’t allowed to vote because he wore a pro-Trump T-shirt to the polls. (Screenshot: KOAT)

A New Mexico man says he wasn’t allowed to vote early in the midterm elections because he wore a pro-Trump T-shirt.

New Mexico resident Greg Malafronte told Albuquerque local news station KOAT that after waiting in line for 20 minutes at a local polling center Friday, a woman noticed his 2016 Donald Trump T-shirt.

“They were about to hand me my ballot and the one girl next to the other girl said you can’t give him a ballot because he has that shirt on,” Malafronte said. “The other girl said ‘Yes, you can because he’s not running right now. But next time, you are not allowed to wear any kind of campaigning shirts or anything like that.’”

After receiving his ballot, Malafronte filled it out, but he was stopped for a second time. “They told me again, ‘We are not taking your ballot’ so the guy tried to grab it from me. I was like, What? You can’t take my ballot? He said, ‘Yup, because you’re wearing a Trump shirt,’” said Malafronte.

The man ripped up his ballot and stormed out.

Screenshot: KOAT

“I was shocked because I would have hoped to see a sign outside that said, ‘Hey, no political gear to be worn inside,” Malafronte told KOAT. 

He also said, “No matter who our president is, it’s our commander in chief. I’m a military vet, so I stand by that ground. Whoever our commander in chief is, I support.” 

Alex Curtas, the director of communications for the Office of the New Mexico Secretary of State, told KOAT in a statement, “The standard for what political apparel is now acceptable in polling places changed as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court case earlier this summer. Our office has been working with our county clerks to educate volunteer polling officials of the new ground rules and to make sure every eligible voter is able to cast their ballot.”

In June, the Supreme Court struck down a Minnesota law banning voters from wearing political clothing to the polls, citing free speech. “Casting a vote is a weighty civic act, and the State may reasonably decide that the interior of the polling place should reflect the distinction between voting and campaigning. … But the line the State draws must be reasonable,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, according to the Texas Tribune. “If a State wishes to set its polling places apart as areas free of partisan discord, it must employ a more discernible approach than the one offered by Minnesota here.”

A spokesperson for the county clerk’s office told KOAT, “The Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office is aware of the campaigning or electioneering situation that occurred at Caracol Plaza today. Our poll officials have been trained and informed of the election laws that govern campaigning or electioneering. With the recent Supreme Court ruling related to campaigning or electioneering, any campaign or electioneering material, such as signs, hats, clothing, etc., is not allowed if the material is related to any candidate or question on the ballot for the general election 2018. Our office will reaffirm this information with our precinct officials throughout the election process.”

Another man in Las Cruces, N.M., was told to conceal his Donald Trump shirt before he was allowed to cast his vote. On Tuesday, David Merry showed up to a polling location wearing a shirt that read “Trump 2016” and “There will be hell toupee” under his jacket, a gag gift from his son in 2015, reported the Las Cruces Sun-News. A presiding judge on location told Merry to zip up his coat before he could vote, which he did. 

According to the publication, Merry said of Trump, “I wasn’t campaigning for him or anybody else.” 

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