September 14, 2017

PLF files reply in challenge to Minnesota’s ban on political apparel

By Wen Fa Attorney

Today, PLF filed this reply brief asking the Supreme Court to hear an important First Amendment case. Minnesota bans political apparel at polling places across the State. The government interprets “political” broadly. For instance, the ban applies to shirts with classic American phrases such as “Liberty” or “Don’t tread on me,” as long as those phrases appear alongside a tea party logo — no matter how small. And it’s not just voters wearing tea party apparel who are deprived of their First Amendment rights. The ban also applies to voters wearing apparel of the Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, the NAACP, the NRA, and countless other organizations.

Our petition to the Supreme Court presents a First Amendment issue of nationwide importance. The Court will likely decide whether it will take the case in the next few weeks.

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Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky

On February 28, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in our case challenging a Minnesota election law that literally strips free speech rights from the backs of voters. A Minnesota state law prohibits voters from wearing “political” apparel at a polling place. This includes any t-shirt, button, or other item that identifies any political issue and even any organization that is known to take positions on political issues. Voters who wear AFL-CIO or NRA caps are told they must remove them before they can enter the polling place and vote. If they refuse, election officials take their names for possible prosecution and penalties up to $5,000. Lower courts upheld this law on the theory that government can ban all expression, besides voting, at a polling place.

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