While he was early voting on Friday, a Douglasville, Georgia man says he was asked to remove a hat he wears everywhere, one that reads “NRA Instructor,” because poll workers said it was too closely associated with the Republican party.
Bundy Cobb, who is certified by the National Rifle Association in firearms training, wears the hat in part to promote his business, True Aim Defense. But poll workers apparently saw it as something different.
“I went by the first two ladies, and they didn’t say anything. And then the next lady, she said ‘sir, you’re going to have to take off your hat,'” Cobb recalled in an interview with The Daily Caller.
“What are you talking about?” Cobb said he replied.
Cobb, who is a veteran, says he looked down the voting line and saw another man with a hat on. “What’s the difference between his hat and mine?” Cobb asked.
That’s when workers told him that his NRA hat was perceived as being associated with the GOP and that he couldn’t wear it near the voting booth.
“It kind of caught me off guard,” Cobb told TheDC, adding that he has worn the exact same hat three times to the same polling place.
“It’s ridiculous,” Cobb said. “My hat advertises my business.”
Cobb took off the hat but contacted the local Fox News affiliate in Atlanta. He also contacted the state board of elections, which, he told TheDC, is investigating the case.
Laurie Fulton, the Douglas County board of elections supervisor, explained that the decision was made out of an abundance of caution.
“The courts have found that anything that suggests associated with the NRA in many people’s perceptions is associated with the Republican party,” Fulton told Fox Atlanta. “So in an overabundance of caution Mr. Cobb was asked to remove the hat so that no one could interpret that we were playing any favoritism over one party versus the other.”
But reached for further comment, Fulton couldn’t cite the court case she alluded to and told TheDC that there was no clear precedent at the state level prohibiting NRA apparel.
Instead, Fulton said that the policy came about after she consulted a colleague following an incident that took place in Douglas County earlier this week.
“It started earlier in the week when a voter complained to me about a hat a man was wearing [an NRA hat],” Fulton told TheDC.
Like Cobb, that man removed his hat after being asked.
“I consulted with one of my contemporaries in another county,” Fulton said. They determined that the NRA hat “fell under the same sort of grey area” as a ruling that barred voters from wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” t-shirt, Fulton said, citing apparel that is popular among tea party and other similar groups.
Fulton was unable to recall if that ruling came from the Georgia Supreme Court or the state election board.
Fulton also discussed how she handles politicized speech and apparel in her office. Once, Fulton said, she wore a “Rosie the Riveter” t-shirt to work, and a co-worker complained that it was too political. Since then, she says she cautions employees against engaging in behavior that could be seen as overly politicized. She applies the same thinking to the voting public.
Cobb called the decision ridiculous and said that NRA membership has nothing to do with political leanings.
“I know personally some Democrats who are members of the NRA,” he said.
Earlier this year a Texas man was forced to cover a pro-Second Amendment t-shirt while voting. In that incident, a gun initiative was on the ballot. No similar initiatives were on the ballot when Cobb went to the polls on Friday.