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Minn. Voters All. v. Mansky - 138 S. Ct. 1876 (2018)

Rule:

The First Amendment prohibits laws abridging the freedom of speech. Minnesota’s ban on wearing any political badge, political button, or other political insignia plainly restricts a form of expression within the protection of the First Amendment. But the ban applies only in a specific location: the interior of a polling place. It therefore implicates the United States Supreme Court's "forum based" approach for assessing restrictions that the government seeks to place on the use of its property.

Facts:

Days before the November 2010 election, petitioner Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) and other individuals challenged a Minnesota law which prohibited individuals, including voters, from wearing a political badge, political button, or other political insignia inside a polling place on Election Day (“political apparel ban”). The political apparel ban covered articles of clothing and accessories with political insignia upon them. According to the petitioners, the statute violated their First Amendment rights. In response to the lawsuit, the State distributed an Election Day Policy to election officials providing guidance on enforcement of the ban. On Election Day, some voters ran into trouble with the ban, including petitioner Andrew Cilek, who allegedly was turned away from the polls for wearing a “Please I. D. Me” button and a T-shirt bearing the words “Don’t Tread on Me” and a Tea Party Patriots logo. The petitioners argued that the ban was unconstitutional both on its face and as applied to their particular items of apparel. The District Court granted the State’s motion to dismiss, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the facial challenge and remanded the case for further proceedings on the as-applied challenge. The District Court granted summary judgment to the State on the as-applied challenge, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. Thereafter, MVA, and the other plaintiffs petitioned for review of their facial First Amendment claim only.

Issue:

Did the political apparel ban violate the rights granted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that Minnesota’s political apparel ban violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the extent it prohibited voters from wearing a political badge, political button, or anything bearing political insignia inside a polling place on Election Day. According to the Court, although Minnesota had the right to prohibit certain apparel in polling places on Election Day because polling places were nonpublic forums, it had to draw a reasonable line, and neither the law  nor the Election Day Policy the State developed and distributed to election officials met that test because they allowed election judges to decide what was "political” when screening individuals at the entrance to the polls without using objective, workable standards which restrained that discretion.

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