What Not To Do On Election Day In Texas
No guns, no politically-charged attire, and absolutely no voting booth selfies under any circumstances.
If you’re one of the more than fifteen million Texans registered to vote, then you should be aware that the state has some important guidelines to make sure things run smoothly at the polls. There are, of course, the obvious ones: don’t vote more than once, don’t intimidate other voters, and don’t be an incarcerated felon. Those rules are pretty much consistent across the nation. There are rules, however, that aren’t as familiar to Texan voters.
For one, you can’t bring your guns to the polls. According to KXAN, Texas is one of just six states that prohibits people from bringing guns into polling places. It’s seemingly at odds with the open carry law and the recent implementation of campus carry, which allows guns on public college campuses. Some Texans, then, may think it’s A-OK to head to their local voting center while strapped. But if you do pack heat while you cast your ballot you could face a felony charge, so you’re probably better off leaving your gun at home. There’s no explicit reason for this particular prohibition, but it’s not hard to imagine why polling places are gun-free zones: someone could easily use a gun to intimidate voters, and voting centers are inherently emotionally charged atmospheres anyway.
Once you make sure your holster is empty, be sure to double-check the rest of your Election Day outfit. You don’t want to end up like Brett Mauthe, of Bulverde, who was arrested during early voting after attempting to cast his ballot while wearing a “Basket of Deplorables” t-shirt and a Donald Trump hat. Mauthe was charged with electioneering, which, according to Texas’s election code, is “the posting, use, or distribution of political signs or literature.” If you wear a shirt, hat, button, or any clothing or accessory that advocates for a candidate or party, you can be thrown out of the polling place in Texas. Most states have some variation of a law prohibiting electioneering, but you rarely hear of someone landing in jail for violating it. In Texas, at least, it seems elections officials volunteering at polling places encounter this sort of thing fairly often, and it’s usually resolved in a non-confrontational manner.
“Every election we have to advise people,” Cynthia Jaqua, a Comal County elections coordinator, told the San Antonio Express-News. “Even if it’s a school bond issue. They wear candidates’ shirts and we just have to remind them. ‘Please go into the restroom and turn it inside out.’” Jaqua said this incident was the first time in her two decades working at the county election office that someone was arrested for violating the electioneering statute. “A gentleman did walk in a little while ago with a slogan for Trump,” Jaqua added, “and when I asked him to please take it off, he was real nice, and took it off.” Mauthe apparently wasn’t so accommodating. He told KSAT that he took off his Trump-supporting hat, but refused to turn his “Basket of Deplorables” shirt inside out. Mauthe ended up spending some time in the Comal County jail for the misdemeanor before he was released on $500 bond. Please remember to wear non-partisan clothes.
Once you’re unarmed and stripped of all physical manifestations of your political preferences, you can finally get into the voting booth. Want to memorialize your contribution to American democracy by snapping a quick selfie? Stop! Don’t do it. Ballot selfies taken inside a voting booth are illegal in Texas. According to Texas’s election code, “a person may not use any mechanical or electronic means of recording images or sound within 100 feet of a voting station.” There’s no criminal penalty for violating this particular prohibition, but if you get caught snapping away in the booth an elections official could tell you to turn off your device or ask you to leave. In some states you are completely barred from publicly sharing your ballot. In Texas, however, there is a selfie silver lining. As the Texas Tribune notes, you can still snap a selfie of you and your ballot if you’re sending it in by mail as an absentee voter.
In fact, that loophole applies to all of these weird rules. So, if you really want to, you can snap a selfie with your absentee ballot while dressed head-to-toe in politically-charged clothing and carrying a gun on your hip. And no one can stop you.