In Texas, Wearing the Wrong Thing to the Polls Could Land You in Jail
When Jillian Ostrewich showed up to vote in the 2018 midterm elections, a pollworker denied her entry. At issue was Ostrewich’s shirt, a Houston firefighters tee with union insignia, which was deemed to violate a prohibition on wearing politicized regalia within 100 feet of a polling place. Rules against “electioneering” at the polls are typically understood to restrict signs, posters, and verbal attempts to sway voters, but Texas has laid out a more stringent approach—and running amok of electioneering law there can constitute a criminal offense.
If Ostrewich’s outfit choice sounds benign, that’s because it was. But one measure on the ballot, Proposition B, was an initiative dealing with firefighter pay. So the “election judge” at Ostrewich’s polling place ordered her to turn her shirt inside-out or go home; she felt violated but complied, went to the back of the line, and eventually cast her vote.
“On the merits, the electioneering statutes violate the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” argues a suit by the nonprofit Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF). In making her case, Ostrewich’s attorneys invoke Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky (2018), a Supreme Court precedent that struck down a similar law in Minn
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