A Georgia man who was forced to remove his NRA instructor hat while early-voting in October is suing the state as well as election officials in Douglas County for violating his civil rights.
Southeastern Legal Foundation filed the lawsuit on behalf of Bundy Cobb, an Army veteran who owns True Aim Defense in Douglasville, in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia on Tuesday.
On Oct. 24, Cobb, who was wearing his trusty “NRA Instructor” hat, went to vote in Douglasville.
After producing his ID, as required, a poll monitor told Cobb he had to take off the NRA hat in order to vote. When Cobb questioned the poll worker, he was told that wearing the hat constituted electioneering because “the NRA is perceived to be associated with Republicans.”
But Cobb says his hat has nothing to do with political affiliation. He wears it because he likes it and because it promotes his gun safety instruction business.
Now, Southeastern Legal Foundation, founded in 1976 and based in Atlanta, has come to his defense.
“The lawsuit filed today seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to redress and prevent the rights of Mr. Cobb and all registered voters in Douglas County against unconstitutional restrictions on free speech and free association under the U.S. Constitution,” said Shannon Goessling, Southeastern Legal Foundation’s executive director, in a statement released Tuesday.
“This should never happen again in Douglas County, in Georgia, or in any jurisdiction in the U.S.”
According to Southeastern Legal, if Cobb had refused to remove his hat while voting he could have been subject to a fine, arrest, and imprisonment.
“Bundy Cobb represents thousands of Georgians and millions of Americans who meet their civic obligations and exercise their rights with the firm conviction that the government should not infringe on the constitutional rights of citizens, period, full stop,” said Goessling.
“This case is not about the NRA, nor is it about whether people like the NRA,” said Goessling.
“Imagine if the same election officials had forbidden a t-shirt with a labor union logo — a union that had endorsed a Democratic candidate,” she added.
Laurie Fulton, the Douglas County elections supervisor, initially told reporters that Cobb was forced to remove the hat “in an overabundance of caution.” (RELATED: Man Told To Remove His NRA Instructor Hat While Voting)
“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.
But when TheDC reached Fulton by phone in October for an interview, she could not cite a specific state court case prohibiting voters from wearing NRA clothing at polling places.
Instead, the policy came after Fulton consulted a colleague in another part of the state after a similar incident earlier in the week in which a man wore an NRA hat while waiting to vote.
According to Fulton, that colleague said that the NRA hat likely “fell under the same sort of grey area” as a ruling that prohibited voters from wearing “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirts at polling places.
Cobb’s lawsuit names the state, the Douglas County Board of Elections, Fulton and other county election officials as defendants.
He requests increased training for poll workers and asks the court to declare that by “enforcing a custom, policy or practice of banning all persons from wearing hats, clothing and other personal items referring to the NRA in all polling locations,” the defendants violated Cobb’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“We the people own America, not the government,” said Cobb. “The government works for us, not the other way around. Stop infringing on our rights, whether freedom of speech or the Second Amendment or any of our rights.”