Supreme Court Scraps Law on What Voters Can Wear

Minnesota barred political messages, but the justices said the rule wasn't specific enough
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2018 1:05 PM CDT
   (Getty/adamkaz)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court has struck down a century-old Minnesota law banning political apparel at polling places. In a 7-2 ruling, the court said the law was written too broadly to be reasonably enforced without violating First Amendment rights, reports Bloomberg. All states regulate political apparel at polling sites, but only 10 states have rules so broad that just about anything can be deemed as political. Minnesota’s law bans issue-oriented messages as well as "material promoting a group with recognizable political views," per USA Today. The court supported the idea that voters should not be subjected to intimidating political statements but said Minnesota’s law was so broad that it could be interpreted to include harmless or non-political messages, per Politico. In short, the rules must be specific.

"If a State wishes to set its polling places apart as areas free of partisan discord,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's majority, “it must employ a more discernible approach than the one Minnesota has offered here." Roberts used the example of a voter entering a polling place wearing a Boy Scout leaders’ uniform, back when the Scouts were under fire for excluding members based on sexual orientation. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented and argued that Minnesota’s top court should have ruled on the law’s constitutionality before the Supreme Court ruling. The lawsuit was filed by a voter who went to the polls in 2010 wearing a “Please I.D. Me” button and a T-shirt with the message: "Don't tread on me." The voter was initially turned away but was eventually allowed to vote.

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