Supreme Court strikes down Minnesota's voter clothing law

National Court News

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Minnesota law that barred voters in the state from wearing a wide range of political hats, T-shirts and pins to the polls.

Minnesota had defended its law as a reasonable restriction that keeps order at polling places and prevents voter intimidation. But the justices ruled 7-2 that the state's law is too broad, violating 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."

Most states have laws restricting what voters can wear when they cast ballots, but Minnesota's law was one of the broadest. It barred voters from casting a ballot while wearing clothing with the name of a candidate or political party. Also not allowed: clothing that references an issue on the ballot or promotes a group with recognizable political views. A National Rifle Association T-shirt or shirt with the text of the Second Amendment wouldn't be allowed, for example, according to the lawyer who argued the case for the state.

Roberts noted that Minnesota, like other states, had sought to balance a voter's ability to "engage in political discourse" with the ability to "exercise his civic duty in a setting removed from the clamor and din of electioneering."

"While that choice is generally worthy of our respect, Minnesota has not supported its good intentions with a law capable of reasoned application," he wrote.

It is unclear exactly how many states the ruling could affect beyond Minnesota. Both Minnesota and the group challenging the state's law had said there are about 10 states with laws like Minnesota's, though they disagreed significantly on which ones, agreeing only on Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Vermont.

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 ultimately 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.

Related listings

  • Cancer the latest health woe for resilient Justice Ginsburg

    Cancer the latest health woe for resilient Justice Ginsburg

    National Court News 12/25/2018

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resting in a New York hospital following surgery to remove two malignant growths in her left lung, the third time the Supreme Court’s oldest justice has been treated for cancer and her second stay in a hospital in...

  • Supreme Court won't hear case over California beach access

    Supreme Court won't hear case over California beach access

    National Court News 09/29/2018

    The Supreme Court is refusing to hear an appeal from a California billionaire who doesn't want to open a road on his property so that the public can access a beach.The justices said Monday that they will not take up Vinod Khosla's appeal of a Califor...

  • 3 hurt in court shooting leave hospital; gunman identified

    3 hurt in court shooting leave hospital; gunman identified

    National Court News 09/18/2018

    The wife of a gunman killed after he opened fire at a Pennsylvania municipal building Wednesday said in a social media post that she was OK but did not say whether she had been injured in the shooting.Crystal Dowdell, 39, posted on her Facebook accou...

Any contracts or any transactions can go awry at any time

We know your business means a lot to you and want to understand all the aspects of your business so that we can help you in the best ways possible. We don’t discriminate depending on the size of your company. Our mission statement is to represent all business owners and entrepreneurs by navigating them through the rough waters of business litigation and guiding them to success.

We are attorneys who want to make sure we understand your business objectives and goals before we start providing you with legal counsel individualized to your business. We know what it means to be dedicated to your business. After all, we are a business as well. And just like you, we want to provide the best service we can to our clients.

Any contracts or any transactions can go awry at any time. Sometimes, making important business decisions without legal help from business attorneys could cost you your business.We don’t want you or your business to be misconstrued by anyone. Our attorneys make sure that we communicate with you often to make sure we are giving you the legal guidance you need at all times. We make sure we are responsive in a timely-manner with every single one of our clients to help them identify risks and prevent legal battles before they arise.