Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky

50

Does the Minnesota law banning political apparel at polling locations violate the first amendment?1


  1. We talked about this case in Episode 50. More information about the case can be found here

6-3 Voters Alliance

7-2 Voters Alliance

8-1 Voters Alliance

Notes

Minnesota statute 211B.11 states:

A person may not display campaign material, post signs, ask, solicit, or in any manner try to induce or persuade a voter within a polling place or within 100 feet of the building in which a polling place is situated, or anywhere on the public property on which a polling place is situated, on primary or election day to vote for or refrain from voting for a candidate or ballot question. A person may not provide political badges, political buttons, or other political insignia to be worn at or about the polling place on the day of a primary or election. A political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day.

Basically it prohibits:

  • displaying political signs within 100 feet of a polling place building
  • handing out badges, buttons, or other political insignia’s to voters as they go into a polling place; and
  • wearing badges, buttons or other political insignia’s in the polling place.

This case arises out of a 2010 election. Andrew Cilek attempted to vote wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, and a small button that said, “Please I.D. Me.” The election worker told him he would have to cover up. He refused. Eventually, he was allowed to vote wearing the button and shirt, but the election worker wrote his name down in a book as an offender.

Don’t tread on me flag was worn to Minnesota polling booth

This is a facial challenge; the as-applied challenge was not appealed. The issue before the court is whether a polling place can be a free speech zone, similar to the Supreme Court’s plaza?

The state is relying on Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. 191 (1992), which holds that a state can constitutionally ban electioneering and other political activity within 100 feet of a voting booth. Burson holds that a state has a compelling interest in preventing voter intimidation and election fraud in the polling places and the Tennessee statute is narrowly tailored to do just that.

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