U.S. Supreme Court will hear free speech suit over Minnesota’s dress code for voters
November 13, 2017
Washington, D.C.; November 13, 2017: The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a First Amendment challenge to Minnesota’s sweeping, speech-stifling restrictions on what can be worn while voting. Represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation, concerned residents like Andy Cilek are targeting the state’s unconstitutional prohibition on wearing anything to the polls that might be interpreted as even slightly ideological, even if it has no relation to any candidate, ballot measure, or political party.
PLF filed the successful petition for certiorari on behalf of the Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA), a nonprofit organization whose members are dedicated to preventing voter fraud; Andy Cilek, Executive Director of the MVA; and Sue Jeffers, a radio talk show host in Minneapolis/St. Paul and former election judge.
This will be PLF’s 14th case before the High Court.
“This is an encouraging day for the cause of free speech and freedom of expression,” said PLF attorney Wen Fa. “With this case, the Supreme Court has an opportunity to strike a blow for core constitutional freedoms, by declaring that Minnesota can’t turn polling places into First Amendment-free zones.
“The state’s restrictions on voter apparel apply to any clothing that reflects personal values, even clothing with a message that is unrelated to anyone’s campaign,” said Fa. “Such a limitless ban on personal expression is unconstitutional.”
The case challenges a Minnesota law that forbids voters from wearing any “political badge, political button, or other political insignia.” Officials have interpreted this open-ended language to cover messages that merely express a general social or philosophical outlook. As the government itself noted at oral argument, Minnesota’s broad political apparel ban encompasses any shirt with the logo of the Chamber of Commerce or the AFL-CIO.
“We are encouraged that the Supreme Court has recognized the importance of our challenge,” said Andy Cilek. “This law is dangerous, because it empowers politicians with power to crush legitimate political expression with which they disagree.”
“Pacific Legal Foundation defends individual liberty, a core component of which is freedom to express one’s values and viewpoints,” said PLF President and CEO Steven D. Anderson. “We look forward to vindicating this important right in another trip before the Supreme Court.”
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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.