“This is city funded voter intimidation,” Simeonidis tweeted alongside a photo of Miami police officer Daniel Ubeda. “Not only is this an egregious form of voter intimidation, but it’s also a crime.”
After intense blowback from Democrats, city officials also condemned Ubeda and police officials promised quick disciplinary action.
“We are aware of the photograph being circulated of a Miami Police officer wearing a political mask in uniform,” the Miami Police Department said in a statement Tuesday. “This behavior is unacceptable, a violation of departmental policy, and is being addressed immediately.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) also condemned the officer’s actions, saying Ubeda is under investigation and will be disciplined for violating department policy.
According to the Miami Police Department’s policies, officers should “avoid all religious and political discussions or arguments” and “shall not interfere with or make use of the influence of their office for political reasons, nor shall they take part in any political activity” while on duty.
Florida doesn’t allow voters to actively campaign in polling places, but they can wear buttons, T-shirts and other apparel that promotes a candidate or issue, because “passive electioneering” is not illegal. At least 20 states have stricter guidelines, which bar voters from wearing campaign-related clothing to the polls.
Although in this case the Miami Police Department’s policy clearly bars officers from displaying political messages while on duty, the incident also reflects concerns that have risen in recent days as poll workers have clashed with voters over political T-shirts and masks.
While voter solicitation, or electioneering, is banned near and inside polling locations, every state has different rules governing what voters can wear to the polls. Campaign-related garb is generally not allowed.
In many jurisdictions, that means poll workers and voters alike must refrain from displaying campaign materials promoting one candidate over another. A few states allow voters to sport small buttons, stickers or badges supporting their candidate of choice, and many places allow political messages that are not connected to a particular candidate or ballot measure.
Already this year, several voters have been challenged over shirts decorated with the racial justice slogans that were oft-repeated refrains at widespread protests this summer. Voters in Tennessee and Florida have been chided for voting while wearing shirts declaring “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter.” Election officials in both states have clarified that wearing those slogans to vote is allowed, and a 2018 Supreme Court decision that overturned Minnesota’s strict anti-electioneering rules said that the state’s rule banning all “political” clothing was too broad.
While general political slogans and imagery are sometimes allowed, attire explicitly promoting a candidate is banned in many states. But in every election, some voters show up in clothing that violates their states’ rules. In past elections, voters have been allowed to cast ballots topless after poll workers told them they could not wear shirts attacking or supporting President Trump. Some people have even been arrested for refusing to remove their campaign-related gear.
This year, masks have added another layer of complication to enforcing voting rules. Most polling centers require masks for in-person voting. But voters who have worn political masks or who have refused to wear masks are already putting those mask mandates to the test. So far, election officials have largely decided that casting ballots is more important than enforcing universal compliance with mask policies.
Election officials in California have formally said that polling centers in the state will accommodate maskless voters.
“The right to vote is of utmost importance,” state officials said in guidelines for poll workers. “Even voters neglectful of important health and safety precautions must be allowed to vote if they enter a voting location.”
New York state similarly advised polling locations to have an “isolated, separate area” to assist voters without masks.
Four voters in Fort Lauderdale refused to don masks to vote early on Monday, even though other people in line at the polling site urged them to cover their faces. Local officials had authorized the police to enforce the mask mandate at voting sites. But the anti-mask voters claimed to have asthma, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported, and stood their ground even after poll workers told them masks were required to enter the voting booth.
In the end, neither the poll workers nor the police stopped the mask-free quartet from voting.
Although it’s unclear how Ubeda will be disciplined for wearing the Trump campaign mask while on duty, the mayor and police chief promised Tuesday he will face consequences for violating department policy.
Simeonidis, who saw Ubeda at the polling site and accused him of voter intimidation, urged city officials to act swiftly and suspend the officer immediately.
“A uniformed officer with a badge and a gun, wearing a Trump mask inside of a polling place, is absolutely unacceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated,” he told WFOR.