Free speech prevails: Supreme Court invalidates election day dress code
June 14, 2018
Washington, D.C.; June 14, 2018: The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a polling-place dress code in Minnesota, upholding free speech rights across the nation.
“The Supreme Court today vindicated the constitutional protections of every American,” said PLF Senior Attorney J. David Breemer, who argued the case before the Supreme Court in February. “The Court put all government entities on notice—they cannot dictate the terms of personal expression, nor can they designate the arbiters of free speech at their whim.”
The 7-2 decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Andy Cilek, Sue Jeffers, and the Minnesota Voters Alliance. They challenged a state prohibition on wearing apparel to the polls that could be construed as political, even if it’s completely unrelated to any candidate, ballot issue, or political party. In addition, the law allowed election judges to arbitrarily decide what counts as “political.”
The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, protects the right of Americans to peacefully express their political views at the polls. Even in this special place, the Court said that the First Amendment allows people to wear apparel expressing their views, whether that’s supporting the Second Amendment, the #MeToo movement, the AARP, or the ACLU.
The implications of today’s decision stretch far beyond the voting booth. By protecting speech in a sensitive area like the polling place, where other regulations on speech are permissible, the ruling protects expression in other forums as well—including airports, town halls, or college campuses.
“Free speech and the Constitution prevailed today,” Cilek said. “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. Well, we showed that our right to free speech doesn’t stop at the polling place. Our Framers would be proud.”
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 17 wins of 19 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.