HOUSTON — As voters continued in mass to the polls during early voting, the Harris County Clerk’s office instructed poll workers Wednesday to not allow individuals wearing shirts depicting the names of three progressive nonprofit groups inside early voting locations to cast ballots this week.
Terri Burke, executive director for the ACLU of Texas, had this reaction:
“This announcement by Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart is a blatant attack on Texans’ First Amendment rights, as the Texas Election Code prohibits wearing apparel relating only to a ‘candidate, measure, or political party appearing on the ballot, or to the conduct of the election,’ none of which applies to the organizations targeted by the County Clerk.
We understand that the County Clerk has rescinded his directive; however, it is important to note that the County Clerk has no authority under the Election Code to instruct election judges on how or when to enforce electioneering prohibitions. The Election Code makes clear that only election judges can decide if and how to enforce the electioneering laws in the polling places of the precincts they serve.
We stress that poll workers and election judges must understand the narrow scope of the restrictions put in place by the Texas Election Code, apply them in a non-partisan manner, and respect the free speech rights of voting citizens. We will continue to monitor this and all potential violations closely.”