Justices strike down Minnesota voter clothing restrictions - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Justices strike down Minnesota voter clothing restrictions

By JESSICA GRESKO
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Minnesota's broad restrictions on voters wearing "political" hats, T-shirts and pins to the polls, but said states can place limits on such apparel.

Minnesota contended the restrictions were reasonable, kept order at polling places and prevented voter intimidation. But the justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said the state's limits on political clothing violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that "if a State wishes to set its polling places apart as areas free of partisan discord, it must employ a more discernible approach than the one Minnesota has offered here."

At another point he wrote: "Casting a vote is a weighty civic act, akin to a jury's return of a verdict or a representative's vote on a piece of legislation. It is a time for choosing, not campaigning. The State may reasonably decide that the interior of the polling place should reflect that distinction."

Most states restrict what people can wear when they vote, but Minnesota's restraints were some of the broadest. State law bars voters from casting a ballot while wearing clothing related to a campaign, such as a T-shirt with the name of a candidate. It also said voters couldn't wear a "political badge, political button, or other political insignia" to vote. That was the part of state law that was challenged and invalidated by the court.

Roberts said the problem came down to the word "political," which state law didn't define. He said the state's interpretation of what counted as political was unreasonable, covering any item that made reference to a group with recognizable political views or referring to any subject on which a political candidate or party has taken a stance.

"Would a 'Support Our Troops' shirt be banned, if one of the candidates or parties had expressed a view on military funding or aid for veterans? What about a '#MeToo' shirt, referencing the movement to increase awareness of sexual harassment and assault?" Roberts wrote.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer would have sent the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court for clarification of the law's boundaries.

It is unclear exactly how many states the ruling could affect. Both Minnesota and the group challenging the state's law had said there are about 10 states with laws similar to Minnesota's, though they disagreed significantly on which ones.

Roberts said other states have laws that describe restrictions "in more lucid terms" than Minnesota's, referencing laws in California and Texas. California bars voters from wearing anything with a "candidate's name, likeness or logo" or a "ballot measure's number, title, subject, or logo," Roberts said, and Texas prohibits wearing anything connected to a political party appearing on the ballot.

Daniel Rogan, who defended Minnesota's law before the justices, said that while he was disappointed by the justices' conclusion, there was a lot in the opinion "we're very pleased about." Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, said he would work with the Legislature, which returns in January, to pass new voter apparel legislation. And Rogan said other provisions in state law will still bar voters from wearing apparel that promotes a candidate or party or that might be considered misleading to voters.

The case before the Supreme Court dates back to 2010 and involves a dispute that began over tea party T-shirts and buttons with the words "Please I.D. Me," a reference to legislation then under discussion in Minnesota that would have required residents to show photo identification to vote. The legislation didn't become law.

Pointing to the state's statute, Minnesota officials said before the election that neither the tea party T-shirts nor those buttons would be permitted at the polls. In response, a group of voters and organizations sued.

J. David Breemer, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, the group behind the challenge, said the court "put all government entities on notice - they cannot dictate the terms of personal expression, nor can they designate the arbiters of free speech at their whim."

The Supreme Court has previously backed some restrictions on voters' free speech rights at the polls. In 1992, the court upheld a Tennessee statute prohibiting the display or distribution of campaign materials within 100 feet of a polling place.

The case is 16-1435 Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky.

___

Associated Press reporter Kyle Potter in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this report.

___

Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • InternationalMore>>

  • The Latest: More than 210 injured in Osaka-area earthquake

    The Latest: More than 210 injured in Osaka-area earthquake

    Sunday, June 17 2018 10:20 PM EDT2018-06-18 02:20:10 GMT
    Monday, June 18 2018 7:22 AM EDT2018-06-18 11:22:45 GMT
    (Kyodo News via AP). Smoke rises from a house blaze in Takatsuki, Osaka, following an earthquake Monday, June 18, 2018.  A strong earthquake shook the city of Osaka in western Japan on Monday morning, causing scattered damage including broken glass and...(Kyodo News via AP). Smoke rises from a house blaze in Takatsuki, Osaka, following an earthquake Monday, June 18, 2018. A strong earthquake shook the city of Osaka in western Japan on Monday morning, causing scattered damage including broken glass and...
    Japanese disaster authorities say two people have been found without vital signs and 41 others injured by an earthquake in western Japan.
    Japanese disaster authorities say two people have been found without vital signs and 41 others injured by an earthquake in western Japan.
  • Strong quake near Osaka, Japan, kills 3, knocks over walls

    Strong quake near Osaka, Japan, kills 3, knocks over walls

    Sunday, June 17 2018 9:29 PM EDT2018-06-18 01:29:52 GMT
    Monday, June 18 2018 7:22 AM EDT2018-06-18 11:22:42 GMT
    (Takaki Yajima/Kyodo News via AP). School children take shelter at schoolyard in Ikeda, Osaka, following an earthquake Monday, June 18, 2018.  A strong earthquake has shaken the city of Osaka in western Japan. There are reports of scattered damage incl...(Takaki Yajima/Kyodo News via AP). School children take shelter at schoolyard in Ikeda, Osaka, following an earthquake Monday, June 18, 2018. A strong earthquake has shaken the city of Osaka in western Japan. There are reports of scattered damage incl...

    A strong earthquake shook the city of Osaka in western Japan, causing scattered damage including broken glass and partial building collapses.

    A strong earthquake shook the city of Osaka in western Japan, causing scattered damage including broken glass and partial building collapses.

  • Colombia's president-elect seeks unity after polarizing vote

    Colombia's president-elect seeks unity after polarizing vote

    Monday, June 18 2018 12:10 AM EDT2018-06-18 04:10:09 GMT
    Monday, June 18 2018 7:22 AM EDT2018-06-18 11:22:31 GMT
    (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara). President Elect Ivan Duque shakes hands with supporters after his victory in the presidential runoff election in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, June 17, 2018. Duque defeated Gustavo Petro, a former leftist rebel and ex-Bogota ma...(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara). President Elect Ivan Duque shakes hands with supporters after his victory in the presidential runoff election in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, June 17, 2018. Duque defeated Gustavo Petro, a former leftist rebel and ex-Bogota ma...
    Colombia's President-elect Ivan Duque is appealing for unity after winning a runoff election over a leftist firebrand whose ascent shook the country's political establishment and laid bare deep divisions over the...
    Colombia's President-elect Ivan Duque is appealing for unity after winning a runoff election over a leftist firebrand whose ascent shook the country's political establishment and laid bare deep divisions over the nation's peace process.
  • National politicsPolitics in the USMore>>

  • The Latest: UK's Boris Johnson defends UN human rights body

    The Latest: UK's Boris Johnson defends UN human rights body

    Monday, June 18 2018 6:40 AM EDT2018-06-18 10:40:05 GMT
    Monday, June 18 2018 7:22 AM EDT2018-06-18 11:22:18 GMT
    (Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP). Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attends the opening day of the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, June 18, 2018.(Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP). Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attends the opening day of the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, June 18, 2018.
    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has defended the U.N.'s main human rights body, alluding to signs the U.S. may withdraw from it over its alleged bias against Israel.
    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has defended the U.N.'s main human rights body, alluding to signs the U.S. may withdraw from it over its alleged bias against Israel.
  • First lady Melania Trump "hates" to see families separated

    First lady Melania Trump "hates" to see families separated

    Monday, June 18 2018 3:09 AM EDT2018-06-18 07:09:58 GMT
    Monday, June 18 2018 7:21 AM EDT2018-06-18 11:21:48 GMT
    (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File). FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2017, file photo, first lady Melania Trump addresses a luncheon at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York. Trump "hates" to see families separated at the border and hopes "both sides o...(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File). FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2017, file photo, first lady Melania Trump addresses a luncheon at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York. Trump "hates" to see families separated at the border and hopes "both sides o...
    First lady Melania Trump "hates" to see families separated at the border, hopes country is one that 'governs with heart'.
    First lady Melania Trump "hates" to see families separated at the border, hopes country is one that 'governs with heart'.
  • Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas

    Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas

    Sunday, June 17 2018 3:40 PM EDT2018-06-17 19:40:11 GMT
    Monday, June 18 2018 7:21 AM EDT2018-06-18 11:21:30 GMT
    Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy. (Source: CNN)Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy. (Source: CNN)

    Hundreds of children are waiting away from their parents inside a Border Patrol holding facility in South Texas, with groups of 20 or more children to a single cage.

    Hundreds of children are waiting away from their parents inside a Border Patrol holding facility in South Texas, with groups of 20 or more children to a single cage.

Powered by Frankly