WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Minnesota’s broad restrictions on voters wearing “political” hats, T-shirts and pins to the polls, but said states can place limits on such apparel.
Minnesota contended the restrictions were reasonable, kept order at polling places and prevented voter intimidation. But the justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said the state’s limits on political clothing violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “if a State wishes to set its polling places apart as areas free of partisan discord, it must employ a more discernible approach than the one Minnesota has offered here.”
At another point he wrote: “Casting a vote is a weighty civic act, akin to a jury’s return of a verdict or a representative’s vote on a piece of legislation. It is a time for choosing, not campaigning. The State may reasonably decide that the interior of the polling place should reflect that distinction.”
Most states restrict what people can wear when they vote, but Minnesota’s restraints were some of the broadest. State law bars voters from casting a ballot while wearing clothing related to a campaign, such as a T-shirt with the name of a candidate. It also said voters couldn’t wear a “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” to vote. That was the part of state law that was challenged and invalidated by the court.