The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Minnesota law that prohibits people from wearing political clothing or buttons at polling places, calling the ban overly broad but leaving room for the state to impose narrower restrictions. The 7-2 ruling invalidating the particulars of Minnesota’s law left state and county officials who administer elections unsure what’s proper attire and what isn’t for the upcoming August primary and the November general election. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that Minnesota’s law needed clearer parameters for both voters and election officials to avoid confusion and prevent potential violations of First Amendment free-speech rights. Roberts wrote that “the State must be able to articulate some sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out.”
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented. Sotomayor wrote that the majority opinion was based on “hypothetical line-drawing” and said the case should have been thrown back to the Minnesota Supreme Court to make a definitive interpretation.
The decision was cheered by members of the three conservative or libertarian groups — the Minnesota North Star Tea Party Patriots, the Minnesota Majority and the Minnesota Voters Alliance — that filed the lawsuit eight years ago over Minnesota’s polling-place ban on “political” badges, buttons and other insignia.