Brett Bartlett Mauthe arrived at his Texas polling place Monday morning ready to vote.
It was the first day of early voting in Bulverde, a tiny town 30 minutes north of San Antonio.
On his head he wore a hat supporting GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Mauthe told KSAT 12 News. His T-shirt read “basket of deplorables,” a reference to a comment Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton made about Trump’s supporters.
Mauthe was stopped before he could cast his ballot.
According to the election code, not just in Texas but in many other jurisdictions across the country, campaigning for or promoting a political candidate within a designated space around a polling place is prohibited. In Comal County, that’s 100 feet. The crime is electioneering, reported the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, a Class C misdemeanor.
Mauthe was asked by poll workers to remove the Trump hat, and he complied, the man told KSAT 12 News. But when they asked him to turn his “deplorables” T-shirt inside out, he refused.
“He wanted to take a stand,” Bulverde Police Chief Gary Haecker told the Herald-Zeitung. “Unfortunately, he was arrested.”
Mauthe was calm and cooperative during the arrest, the chief told the newspaper, and later posted a $700 cash bond to get out of jail.
“I went up there and talked to him. I told him, ‘I support you and I appreciate what you’re doing. It’s your right, but you’re going about it the wrong way here.’ The election code has very specific rules,” Haecker told the Herald-Zeitung. “These are the rules and you have to abide by the rules.”
In her two decades working in the Comal County Election Office, Elections Coordinator Cynthia Jaqua told the San Antonio Express-News, this is the first arrest she can remember — though ignorance of the election code is not at all uncommon.
“Every election we have to advise people” even for local races, Jaqua told the Express-News. “They wear candidates’ shirts and we just have to remind them. ‘Please go into the restroom and turn it inside out.’ This is the first time I recall someone getting arrested.”
Mauthe told KSAT 12 News he did not know wearing his Trump hat and shirt was a violation of the election code.
When phoned Thursday afternoon by an Express-News reporter, Mauthe refused to elaborate further on the incident.
“The reason I’m not going to talk any more to the media is that the story gets twisted around, and I don’t want to give you any comment,” he told the paper.
The incident comes at a time of widespread concern among Trump supporters that the 2016 presidential election is “rigged,” to quote Trump. At campaign rallies across the country and from his Twitter account, Trump has fueled those concerns, despite the lack of any substantive evidence that widespread voter fraud or other voting irregularities are occurring.
A Texas county switched briefly to paper ballots this week after voting machines flipped one woman’s straight Republican ballot to a vote for Clinton. A Facebook post about it went viral, fueling more concerns among Trump supporters.
But Shannon Lackey, elections administrator for that county, told CNN on Thursday the ballot flip was not nefarious and that allegations of fraud are unfounded.
“Absolutely not. … It is not happening in any way, shape or form,” Lackey said. “I stand 100 percent behind what I do. I stand behind my machines, my staff.”
Reports of other machine malfunctions have surfaced, including one in Georgia, but those glitches appeared to be related to a faulty touch screen, not a malicious hacking scheme to rig the election.
Election officials told CNN that their best advice for voters is to follow instructions and double-check their own ballots, something many machines prompt the voter to do anyway.
“There is nothing wrong with any of the machines we use for voting,” Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner said in a statement this week, amid claims that devices in that Texas county were faulty. “They do not flip your vote. They do not flip parties. Humans do that.”
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