Supreme Court says Minnesota ban on political apparel in polling places too broad

The U.S. Supreme Court. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Minnesota’s ban on wearing “political” apparel to polling places, saying that the state’s intentions may be good but that its law was too broad and open to differing interpretations.

The 7-to-2 decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., was careful not to cast constitutional doubt on restrictions every state imposes to protect the solemnity of the voting booth.

But Minnesota’s prohibition on the wearing of a “political badge, political button or other political insignia” raised more questions than it answered, Roberts wrote, and gave too much discretion to volunteer election judges trying to figure out what counted as “political” and what did not.

“The state must be able to articulate some sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out,” Roberts wrote. “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.”

The Supreme Court decided 25 years ago that states could ban electioneering and distributing campaign materials within 100 feet of polling places, and all states have restrictions.

But Minnesota and nine other states go further. Minnesota’s clothing and button ban has been interpreted to include the names of political parties, candidates, support for or opposition to a ballot question; materials designed to influence voting; and the promotion of groups with recognizable political views, such as unions and the…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.