ST. PAUL - The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether a Minnesota law banning political items in and near polling places violates free speech rights.
The high court announced Monday, Nov. 13, that it accepted the Minnesota Voters Alliance appeal from the 8th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals, which had upheld the law. The alliance sued several Twin Cities election officials and Secretary of State Steve Simon.
It is one of three free speech cases the court put on its docket for early 2018.
Minnesota law prohibits anyone within 100 feet of polling places on election day from wearing "a political badge, political button or other insignia."
The alliance says the law violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment free speech rights.
Andrew Cilek, an alliance official, went to a polling place in 2010 and was temporarily prevented from voting because he wore a T-shirt proclaiming "Don't tread on me," with a logo for the Tea Party, court documents indicate. He also wore a badge saying "Please ID me," a slogan supporting a voter identification law, with Election Integrity Watch's website and telephone number printed on it.
While the appeals judges said the law is constitutional, the alliance claims that other federal and courts have upheld free speech in similar cases.
The alliance said the case is important because nine other states have laws similar to Minnesota.
The election officials have responded by saying a polling place is "a nonpublic forum in which speech restrictions are constitutional as long as they are reasonable and viewpoint neutral." They point to court decisions that back their side.
People wearing articles that are not allowed typically are asked to cover up the material, then may vote.
State officials say that besides apparel, the law prohibits campaign literature from groups that hold political views.
Appeals judges upheld the Minnesota law in 2013 and 2017, saying it helps maintain order in polling places.