HOUSTON -- A voter who went to the polls Thursday at an early-voting location south of the Texas Medical Center served as this mid-term election’s reminder to keep your politically-themed clothing at home.
"This is ridiculous,” Tamika Francis told 11 News as she stood outside the Fiesta grocery store at Main and Kirby where she had just been denied the right to vote.
“That’s not going to roll with me. Is it going to roll with you?” she asked her mom who had travelled to the polling location with her.
The problem is that Francis was wearing a 2008 Obama election shirt. It has photos of the first family during the campaign accompanied by the phrase “Our President Obama.” The presiding elections judge told her she could not vote, nor could she help her disabled mother vote, until she either turned the shirt inside out or covered it up to hide the message and photos.
"He is not a candidate in the Texas election,” Francis said. “So why are you denying me the right to vote?"
Her mother agreed.
"And to say a person cannot vote because they have a T-shirt with the President of the United States on that T-shirt, that is not right,” Sandra Lucas Francis said.
"I said let me see in writing where it says I cannot wear this shirt,” Tamika Francis added.
"It's titled Electioneering Prohibited,” said Hector de Leon, spokesman for the Harris County Clerk as he read Texas Election code 85.036. The code, dating back to 1985, stipulates that “during the time of an early voting polling place is open for the conduct of early voting, a person may not electioneer for or against any candidate, measure, or political party in or within 100 feet of an outside door through which a voter may enter the building or structure in which the early voting polling place is located.”
Likenesses of President Obama fall within those prohibitions given that he is the most visible leader of, and one of the most active campaigners for, the Democratic Party.
"When you are actually going into a poll that has his picture on it you're essentially promoting a party,” said de Leon.
And this week there have been similar reports from Dallas and Waco, where voters wearing Tea Party shirts or buttons are also being turned away until they remove their party paraphernalia.
Tamika Francis, meanwhile, doesn't yet fully accept the explanation, but said she is sure of one thing.
“I'm not going to give up. I'm going to vote,” she said.
Elections organizers said her experience should serve as a reminder to everyone, whichever political party, candidate, or cause they support that any and all political clothing, buttons, or other elections-themed clothing must be left at home.