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Do voters have a right to wear political garb at the polling booth?

Do voters have a right to wear political garb at the polling booth?

Democracy in AmericaFeb 14th 2018by S.M. | NEW YORKtwitter iconfacebook iconlinkedin iconmail iconprint iconWHEN the justices hear Minnesota Voters Alliance v Mansky on February 28th, they will face a case that pits the freedom of speech against the right to vote. Clashing fundamental values make for interesting Supreme Court cases, and Mansky promises to be…

WHEN the justices hear Minnesota Voters Alliance v Mansky on February 28th, they will face a case that pits the freedom of speech against the right to vote. Clashing fundamental values make for interesting Supreme Court cases, and Mansky promises to be a lively discussion of a tussle between rights that ordinarily point in the same direction. 

Since 1912, Minnesota has barred voters from donning a “political badge, political button or other political insignia” when entering a “polling place on primary or election day”. When Andre Cilek showed up to vote in 2010 wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “Don’t Tread on Me” and images supporting the Tea Party, as well as a “Please ID Me” button (mocking those who oppose voter-ID laws), he faced resistance. Mr Cilek was turned away, twice, before finally persuading a reluctant election worker to let him vote. These strictures sanitising polling places of all political messages violate the First Amendment, the Minnesota Voters Alliance (founded by Mr Cilek) claims. Similar laws in other states have empowered election workers to clamp down on voters in rather comical ways. A Texas voter was halted in 2008 for wearing an “Alaska” t-shirt that, in the eyes of a poll worker, endorsed Sarah Palin, Alaska’s governor and the Republican candidate for vice president. Four years later, voters in Florida and Colorado were reprimanded for wearing “MIT” sweatshirts—poll workers unfamiliar with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and with the spelling of the Republican presidential candidate’s first name, thought they were promoting Mitt Romney.

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