ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – When Mary Sanchez went to cast her ballot early at the Four Hills Shopping Center, she wasn’t aware that she was breaking the law.
After a lengthy wait in line, Sanchez was surprised when a poll worker confronted her.
“The lady came up and asked if I would leave or turn my shirt inside out,” Sanchez said. “I asked her, ‘Are you serious?’ and she said, ‘Yes.’”
Sanchez ultimately left without voting that day.
The problem was her black Donald Trump shirt.
What Sanchez did fell under a New Mexico law against “electioneering” within 100 feet of a polling place. A key part of that statute reads:
Electioneering includes the display or distribution of signs or campaign literature, campaign buttons, t-shirts, hats, pins or other such items and includes the verbal or electronic solicitation of votes for a candidate or question.
Breaking that law is a petty misdemeanor in New Mexico, although Bernalillo County clerk’s spokesperson Joey Keefe says he hasn’t heard of someone getting arrested for wearing a shirt to the polls.
“If it’s something like a hat or button we just ask them to put it in their car,” Keefe said. “If it’s something like a t-shirt we ask them to go to a private place and turn it inside out so they don’t have to leave completely or if they have a jacket, to zip up the jacket.”
New Mexico is not alone in having that law on the books. KRQE News 13 found at least 20 other states where it’s either directly or implicitly against the law to wear a campaign shirt to a polling place. [Note: Wisconsin’s electioneering statute reads: “Scope of prohibition on electioneering at or near polling place on election day. Campaign signs placed on public property within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place on election day are unlawful. Violative signs may be removed from public property. The mere presence of a candidate at or within 100 feet of the polling place is not prohibited, provided that the candidate does not engage in electioneering. Car-top carriers and campaign buttons bearing campaign messages at or within 100 feet of the polling place are prohibited. One who engages in electioneering should not be thereby disenfranchised.”]
Sanchez thinks the law could be made clearer to voters, but already learned her lesson.
“I did end up voting this morning,” Sanchez said. “With a different shirt!”