10:51, June 14 36 0 abajournal.com

2018-06-14 10:51:08
Supreme Court strikes down Minnesota’s broad ban on political apparel at polling places

Developing: Minnesota’s broad ban on political badges, buttons and insignia at polling places violates the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 7-2 opinion.

Some forms of advocacy may be excluded from polling places, but the state has to draw a reasonable line, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the majority opinion. Minnesota has not drawn that line, he said.

“The state must be able to articulate some sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out” of the polling place, Roberts said. “Here, 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 even this forgiving test.”

Minnesota bans political insignia only on Election Day, and only within polling places. Election judges have the authority to decide whether an item is banned. Any voter who refuses to remove or conceal a prohibited item will be allowed to vote, but the person will be referred for administrative hearings that could result in a civil penalty. The hearing body could also refer the individual for a criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor carrying a $300 fine.

Minnesota does not define the term political. A literal reading of the term could lead to a ban on a button or T-shirt that merely implores others to “Vote!” Roberts said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented in an opinion joined by Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Sotomayor said she would certify the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court for a definitive interpretation of the political apparel ban. That “likely would obviate the hypothetical line-drawing problems that form the basis of the court’s decision today,” she wrote.

The case is Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky.

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