U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Apparel Rules at Polls

July 02, 2018

In Minnesota Voting Alliance et. al. v. Mansky, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Minnesota law that prohibits individuals, including voters, from wearing a “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” inside a polling place on election day.*

The Court found that under the First Amendment free speech forum analysis, a voting poll is a nonpublic forum. This means that a government may enact content-based restrictions on speech, as long as those restrictions are “reasonable and not an effort to suppress expression merely because public officials oppose the speaker’s view.”

Although the Court found that the regulation served a permissible objective, it found that the statute was overly broad and, therefore, impermissible.

Reiterating the special purpose of a polling place, the Court stated that a state may choose to prohibit certain apparel in that polling place. However, it emphasized that the prohibition must be reasonable.

The Court found that 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 this test.”

As the election season approaches, counties are encouraged to review polling policies and procedures and ensure that they are revised to reflect this new ruling. Counties should also train election judges about those policies.

*Minn. Stat. §211B.11(1) (Supp. 2017).