The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case testing a Minnesota law that bans the wearing of buttons or clothing with messages that election officials deem too political to be worn within 100 feet of any polling place. The justices took the action in a one-line order without comment. It lets stand a federal appeals court decision upholding the statute. The Minnesota law seeks to prevent campaigning and electioneering by candidates and their supporters at the locations where voters are casting their ballots. But an array of conservative groups challenging the statute said it went far beyond preventing electioneering and violated the free speech rights of voters to express broader political ideas without facing government censorship.
The lawsuit was filed by various conservative political groups, including the Minnesota North Star Tea Party Patriots, that complained the law would prevent voters from wearing T-shirts proclaiming “Don’t Tread on Me” and buttons urging election officials to check voters’ identification.
“On its face, the contested Minnesota statute opposes all political content of apparel; thereby the Minnesota statute covers the universe of expressive activity,” Minneapolis lawyer Erick Kaardal wrote in his petition urging the court to take up the case.
“The government simply presumes that political speech on apparel automatically harms potential voters,” he said. “Consequently, every Minnesotan who walks into a polling place, wearing clothes, is subject to prosecution if the clothes worn are viewed as ‘political,’ “ he said.