Supreme Court strikes down Minnesota ban on political clothing at polling places

SCOTUS ruled it a First Amendment violation.
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Minnesota's ban on political apparel being worn at polling places on Election Day has been overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States.

In a ruling released on Thursday, SCOTUS said the banning of political clothing violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

The case dates back to the November 2010 elections, when the Minnesota Voters Alliance challenged Minnesota's laws when the group's executive director wore a "Please I.D. Me" button and a Tea Party shirt to his Eden Prairie polling station.

Minnesota law, which has existed since the late 19th Century, states that voters are prohibited from wearing “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” inside a polling place on Election Day.

In its 7-2 ruling, the majority ruled that First Amendment rights supersede the state's efforts of "maintaining peace, order and decorum in the polling place.”

The SCOTUS ruling does leave Minnesota the option of re-writing the law so it can be applied more narrowly, noting the ban "serves a permissible objective," but was too broad to be enforced.

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"The State therefore must be able to articulate some sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out," it said.

"The unmoored use of the term 'political' in the Minnesota law, combined with haphazard interpretations the State has provided in official guidance and representations to this Court, cause Minnesota’s restriction to fail this test."

The justices struggled with interpreting what would and would not be acceptable under Minnesota's law, such as in instances where t-shirts don't express support for specific candidates, but may feature, for example, a rainbow flag for gay rights, or expressing support for the National Rifle Association.

Dissenting were Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, with Justice Sotomayor saying that states should have discretion to "determine what measures are appropriate" to maintain decorum and prevent confusion and intimidation at the voting booth.

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