Man warned for wearing MAGA hat when voting in Georgia

FILE PHOTO

Credit: George Frey

Credit: George Frey

A man who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat when he went to vote violated a Georgia law prohibiting campaigning at the polls, according to the State Election Board.

The board voted 3-1 on Thursday to send Roswell resident Lee Holsworth a letter of instruction. He doesn’t face any other fines or penalties for wearing the hat at the Johns Creek Environmental Campus early voting location on Oct. 29, 2016.

Red “Make America Great Again” hats are an expression of support for Republican President Donald Trump, but Holsworth said his hat didn’t mention Trump by name.

Holsworth told the board he always wears a hat because he has skin cancer, and he removed it when asked by a poll worker.

“I didn’t feel like I was electioneering or anything like that. I was just coming in to vote. I don’t even know if there were any other voters there,” Holsworth said during the State Election Board meeting. “When asked to take it off, I was so surprised, but I did it.”

Lawyer Bryan Sells speaks to a witness as members of the State Election Board listen during a hearing held by the State Election Board earlier this year. The board made decisions on 98 cases this past week. (Photo/Austin Steele for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Austin Steele

Credit: Austin Steele

The three Republican appointees on the State Election Board supported the finding that Holsworth violated state law, but the Democrat on the board opposed the decision.

“I just don’t think it’s a violation to wear a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat that doesn’t say to vote for any particular candidate on it,” said David Worley, a board member and former chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Matt Mashburn, a board member and Republican poll watcher, said the hat shouldn’t be allowed in a polling place.

“My thinking was that the president and MAGA are indistinguishable,” Mashburn said. “If you showed 1,000 people a MAGA hat, at least 995 if not all 1,000 would associate MAGA with Trump and only Trump and no other candidate or issue.”

The State Election Board cited a Georgia law that prohibits any voter from distributing or displaying campaign materials within any polling place.

The case was one of 98 decided by the board Thursday, dating back to 2014.

The State Election Board has the power to send letters of instruction, levy fines up to $5,000, issue public reprimands and refer cases to the attorney general’s office for further investigation.