Supreme Court agrees to review law banning political apparel at polling places

Supreme Court agrees to review law banning political apparel at polling places

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider guaranteeing the right of people to wear political T-shirts and buttons when they vote, accepting an appeal that could expand First Amendment rights at polling places. Members of those organizations, concerned about ineligible voters casting ballots, turned up on Election Day wearing buttons reading "Please ID me", and at least one person wore a T-shirt with a Tea Party logo that said "Don't tread on me".

Cilek sued, arguing that the law should be overturned because it violated his free speech rights and was too broad, requiring enforcement based on the subjective judgment by election officials about what types of messages have political overtones.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court has permitted campaign-free zones at polling places, it has never endorsed a ban on all political speech, the Minnesota Voters Alliance asserts in its cert petition (PDF).

State officials, including Attorney General Nathan Hartshorn, urged the Supreme Court not to hear the case, saying lower courts have uniformly upheld similar rules elsewhere. "It essentially creates a speech-free zone in the polling place". "Such a limitless ban on personal expression is unconstitutional".

Since 1987, Texas has barred the wearing of a "badge, insignia, emblem or other similar communicative device" that relates to a candidate, ballot measure, political party or the way an election is run. That law didn't mention more general political items.

The court will take up a case originally filed in 2010 by three conservative or libertarian groups: the Minnesota North Star Tea Party Patriots, the Minnesota Majority and the Minnesota Voters Alliance.

"It just keeps things happier that way", she said.

County and state officials say the court got it right because "the interior of a polling place is a nonpublic forum in which speech restrictions are constitutional as long as they are reasonable and viewpoint neutral".

The high court announced Monday, Nov. 13, that it accepted the Minnesota Voters Alliance appeal from the 8th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals, which had upheld the law.

"'Speech-free zones' can not be reconciled with the First Amendment's free speech clause", the challengers argued in court papers.



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