Several Field School District residents took to Facebook on Tuesday to complain that they were told to turn their Field T-shirts inside out or cover them up at their polling place.
The shirt that caused the most problems was a T-shirt that reads “Four Schools, Two Communities, One Community,” Levy Committee Co-Chair Erin Roberts said. The shirt was designed by a student for a design contest run by the levy committee, although the design did not have to reference the levy. The shirt was available for purchase through a website not associated with the levy committee and the levy committee did not pay for or distribute the shirts. Any proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts would be returned to the levy committee, but as of Election Day, the levy committee had not received any funds, Roberts said.
According to Portage Board of Elections Chairman Denise L. Smith, voters were asked to cover-up the T-shirts because they implicitly supported the school levy.
“The chairman of the levy committee confirmed that these shirts were in support of the levy and per the (Ohio) secretary of state’s instruction, their manual and Ohio Revised Code, any attire or paraphernalia demonstrating support of a ballot issue, that kind of attire is prohibited,” Smith said.
While Smith was uncertain if this had been an issue in the past, she said that the policy has been in place for several years.
She noted that some voters complied with requests to take off shirts, turn them inside out or cover them up, but others did not. Regardless of their response, she said that no one was turned away from voting.
If someone did not comply, Smith said that poll workers may have taken a photo as documentation.
“We need to have documentation that they failed to comply, and per the secretary of state, we were to report those incidents and those individuals to his office. What action they take or don’t take is at the discretion of the secretary of state,” Smith said.
Roberts said that while she understands the rule, the enforcement seems to be at the discretion of individual poll workers. She, along with her co-chair Brandi Roberts, have been receiving text messages, emails, Facebook messages and calls from many people they said, and the majority of the voters who had issues voted at the high school and Suffield Elementary School.
“There seems to be different rules for different locations, and then there was also miscommunication. Some people were told that it was illegal and they wouldn’t be able to vote, and some people were just told to turn them inside out. We got a report from someone who said that they were asked to turn their Field football shirt inside out,” Erin Roberts said. “It’s at the discretion of the poll worker. That’s not right. Their bias can come in to play.”
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KristaKanoRCedu.