SAN ANTONIO – Brett Mauthe, 55, has learned the hard way a lesson of which many voters may not be aware: Wearing the wrong clothing to the polls can lead to big trouble.
Mauthe was arrested Monday in Bulverde on a charge of electioneering for showing up to cast his vote wearing a T-shirt and hat related to the presidential campaign, authorities said.
Bulverde police Chief Gary Haecker confirmed the arrest but declined to release details. Instead, he deferred to Comal County’s election coordinator, Cynthia Jaqua.
Jaqua said the offense of electioneering isn’t limited to people who stand outside polling places holding signs. Violations can be committed by voters as well.
"It can mean a T-shirt, a button, a hat, you know?" she said. “Anything related to the voting, the party, the candidate.”
Jaqua declined to release specific details about Mauthe’s arrest.
However, in a phone call Tuesday, Mauthe told a KSAT 12 News producer that he was wearing a hat supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and a T-shirt with the words “Basket of deplorables.” The phrase stems from a comment that Trump’s rival, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, made in reference to Trump’s supporters.
Mauthe said he complied with an initial request by officials at the poll to remove his hat. However, he said that when he was told to turn his T-shirt inside out, he drew the line. He said he was unaware that wearing such attire to the polls was a violation of the election code.
It seems that other voters don’t realize either that the rules apply to them too.
"I don't feel like you should be preaching to anybody, but I do feel like you should be able to wear a shirt if you want and if it has the candidate," Georgina Pereida said after casting her vote Wednesday morning. "I'm kind of shocked, because I think that's part of the freedoms that we're voting for. "
Pereida said she showed up at the polls in a plain denim shirt and was able to “keep it neutral.”
Jose Tovar, meanwhile, said he already knew where to draw the line. He routinely campaigns for a local candidate and makes sure he keeps his political signs at least 100 feet from the polling place.
Tovar said it’s the responsibility of every voter to be informed.
“If you’re 18 and vote, you know the rules and regulations,” he said.
The charge that Mauthe faces, electioneering, is a class C misdemeanor offense.