The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a Minnesota law banning voters from wearing political apparel to the polls, saying it was too draconian in stifling Americans’ First Amendment rights. The 7-2 decision said it may be possible for states to restrict stridently political T-shirts and buttons, but the justices said Minnesota didn’t justify why its law needed to be so broad. Minnesota’s ban covered any “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” a voter might wear. Andrew Cilek, a state voter, challenged the law after he was told he couldn’t vote in 2010 because he was wearing a T-shirt with the emblem of a local tea party group and had a button asking for poll workers to check his ID. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing the majority opinion, said the law left it up to poll workers to decide what was political, creating the potential for conflicting or mischievous decisions over whether something is political. He wondered whether someone wearing a Boy Scout uniform would have to cover it up. “A rule whose fair enforcement requires an election judge to maintain a mental index of the platforms and positions of every candidate and party on the ballot is not reasonable,” the chief justice wrote. Mr. Cilek said the ruling meant free speech and the Constitution prevailed in his legal fight. “It’s ridiculous that the state would dig in its heels to the point we had to take them to the highest court in the nation,” he said. “Well, we showed that our right to free speech doesn’t stop at the polling place. Our Framers would be proud.” The lower courts had sided with the state, which argued the law was meant to avoid campaigning and disturbances near the ballot box. Thursday’s ruling overturns that decision. Justice Roberts said they weren’t striking down other state laws, saying there may be room for states to impose reasonable restrictions that can meet constitutional muster.
Agreed! A well thought-out decision…and a decision in support of free speech. For more on today’s ruling by the Supremes, click on the text above. 🙂