Can You Wear a MAGA Hat to the Polls? Rules Vary for Non-Candidate-Specific Merchandise
Electioneering laws prevent people from wearing hats, buttons or shirts with candidates’ names on them at the polls. In some states, you also can’t wear anything regarding ballot issues, either.
But, in California and New York, you can still wear political slogans as long as they don’t have the candidates’ name on them.
That means that this year, what is possibly the most common piece of campaign merchandise will be allowed in states like California and New York:
The “Make America Great Again” cap.
“State law is clear that you can’t have a candidate’s likeness or name,” a spokesperson for California Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office told LA Magazine. “It does not prohibit slogans that could be created for a campaign or a political movement.”
That means that Biden supporters could also show up with a shirt that says “Build Back Better.” But, regarding the “MAGA” hat, it’s hard to compete with something that has become such a symbol of a campaign.
In New York, this is a new development, as officials previously told reporters that MAGA hats would not be permitted. Last week, that changed.
“You can wear a MAGA hat,” Lisa Nicolay, Monroe County’s elections commissioner, told the Democrat & Chronicle. “You cannot wear a shirt that says ‘Vote for President Trump.’”
The reasoning behind this is that slogans like this technically support a cause, not a specific person. This is the same reason that it’s OK to wear a “Black Lives Matter” shirt to the polls.
“New York’s anti-electioneering law was intended to prevent the political campaigns from intruding into the polling place,” state election officials told the Democrat & Chronicle. “It was not designed to prohibit political expression generally.”
Electioneering laws were made to prevent campaign workers from showing up to the polls to try to convince people to vote one specific way. For voters, showing your support for a cause, not a candidate, is still allowed—even if there's a blurred line between the two.