A long fight over wearing political buttons at polling places is over – probably

Critics of Minnesota's law said it violated their free speech rights.
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Strolling into your polling place with your favorite candidate's face on your t-shirt remains a no-no in Minnesota. And this week's court ruling may be the final word in the long-running court case. Unless it's not.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Minnesota's law banning political buttons or apparel at polling places (or within 100 feet of them).

Critics of the law said it violates their First Amendment right to free speech.

The Appeals Court said in Tuesday's ruling (read it here) it's OK for states to restrict speech in a place that's not a public forum – like a polling place – as long as it's viewpoint-neutral and there's a good reason for it. The judges say ensuring that a polling place is "neutral and free of influence" qualifies as a reason.

What does the law say?

Under the law no one can wear a political button, badge, or insignia to a polling place. There also can't be any political signs up nor anyone campaigning within 100 feet of the place.

In its ruling the appeals court went over what happens if you do show up with a political button. First an election judge will ask you to take it off or cover it up. If you do, no problem.

If you refuse, you can still vote but your name and address will be taken down and you could be prosecuted for breaking the law – a misdemeanor.

By the way, the law specifically mentions the "I VOTED" stickers that get handed out afterwards and says those are OK.

'Please ID Me' buttons

The court case dates back to 2010, when Minnesotans were voting on a Constitutional amendment that would have required a photo ID to vote.

Supporters of the proposal wanted to wear "Please ID Me" buttons to the polling place.

Groups including Election Integrity Watch, Minnesota Northstar Tea Party Patriots, and Minnesota Majority tried unsuccessfully to get a court to block enforcement of the political button ban.

In 2011 they filed their lawsuit. A federal court threw it out. Then an appeals court told the lower court they'd have to hear part of the case. They did and upheld the law. Now, in 2017, the appeals court has agreed with them.

In a statement applauding the court's ruling, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said: "Barring a successful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court ... the six-year court battle is over."

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