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Clothing shouldn’t keep people out of voting booth

I had an unpleasant experience when I voted in the 2012 primary. Upon entering my polling place, it was strongly implied to me by an election inspector that I wouldn’t be allowed to vote because of how I was dressed. I was wearing a particular candidate’s shirt but at no time did I verbally or physically promote any candidate. Another election inspector said the same thing, so I entered a bathroom and turned my T-shirt inside out. I was then granted permission to vote.
I later called the Erie County Board of Elections to express my disappointment in how I was treated because of how I was dressed. I didn’t actively campaign or promote any particular candidate. My thoughts were heard, but I don’t think the commissioner or the election inspectors fully understand what happened was wrong.
I later saw on television two candidates at their polling places, both wearing clothing that would be described by the election inspectors at my polling place as “political.” Neither was hassled and both were granted permission to vote.
Voting is the building block of our democracy. As a former election inspector, I understand how important it is to participate in the political process. While I eventually was able to vote, I felt I faced an unprecedented hurdle that could hinder voting and discourage political participation.
Accusing a voter of campaigning at a polling place based on her clothing sends the wrong message. As long as voters follow the policies in place, their choice of dress shouldn’t factor into whether they’re allowed to vote.
We should protect and promote our rights to vote rather than diminish and disenfranchise voters. I will vote in the general election, but apparently will have to ponder what to wear before heading to the polls.
Dee Vitrano
Hamburg