Hillsborough, N.C. — The Orange County Democratic Party has apologized to a teen voter who was told by a volunteer that he couldn’t wear a T-shirt supporting President Donald Trump into an early voting site this week.
“I’ve had the shirt four or five years now,” David Mogle, of Hillsborough, said Thursday of his “Trump, Make America Great Again” shirt.
He was too young to vote when he first got the shirt, but he turned 18 last December. His mother, Melissa Mogle, said he couldn’t wait to vote in this year’s elections.
“Oh, my gosh, he’s been excited to vote probably for the past four years,” she said.
So, David Mogle wore the shirt Tuesday to the early voting site at the Efland Ruritan Club, where he was approached by a volunteer for the Democratic Party.
“He says, ‘Excuse me, sir. You can’t wear that within 50 feet of the polls. Do you have a jacket you can pull over it?'” the teen said.
When David Mogle said he didn’t, the man told him he could turn the shirt inside out.
“I didn’t want to get into it with the guy. I just thought the best thing to do was just leave,” he said.
“I felt badly for him,” Melissa Mogle said. “It’s his first election to vote in, and I wanted him to have a good experience.”
State law sets a 50-foot buffer from the doors to a polling site that’s off limits to campaigning. The law bans ads and other political literature there but says nothing about voters’ clothing.
Orange County elections director Rachel Raper said people can wear T-shirts, hats, pins or any other campaign apparel when they vote as long as they’re not harassing other voters ot telling them whom to vote for.
Marilyn Carter, chairwoman of the Orange County Democratic Party, emailed an apology to the Mogles on behalf of the Democratic Party.
“We want all voters, especially young people, to feel welcome at the polls,” Carter said in a statement to WRAL News. “We believe this incident occurred because a well-intentioned volunteer knew that people appointed by the political parties to observe inside the polling place cannot wear campaign insignia and assumed that this prohibition also applied to voters.”
She said she has notified North Carolina Democratic Party officials about the incident to make sure volunteers are trained on what voters are allowed to wear at the polling place.
David Mogle said he returned to the early voting site on Wednesday, wearing the shirt and a Trump hat, and voted.
“Nobody said anything to me,” he said.