Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky [SCOTUSbrief]
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Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky [SCOTUSbrief]


Andy Cilek, in 2010, went to vote in Minnesota
wearing a tea party t-shirt. He was twice stopped by a poll worker from
voting, and on the third try he was finally allowed to vote but his name and address was
taken down for potential prosecution. He filed a First Amendment lawsuit against
Joe Mansky and other government officials in Minnesota alleging that Minnesota’s broad
ban on all political apparel at the polling place violates the First Amendment. The law at issue in this case is Minnesota
Section 211 B.11 which prohibits voters from wearing any political badge, button, or other
insignia at the polling place. Minnesota promulgated an election day policy
that says political includes groups with recognizable political views such as the Tea Party, MoveOn.org,
and so on. If a poll worker thinks that someone is voting
while wearing political apparel, then that person writes down the name and address of
that voter for potential prosecution. Minnesota thinks of a violation of this law
as a petty misdemeanor which can be enforced by fines of up to $5,000. So the government can restrict speech that
is not protected by the First Amendment. For example, things like true threats, obscenity,
the Court has not given First Amendment protections to. But, in other arenas if the government wants
to restrict speech that is protected by the First Amendment, it needs to show why its
regulations are justified, and why those First Amendment restrictions are justified. The best argument for Minnesota Voters Alliance
was just that this law is so broad that it is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. A law is overbroad if it covers substantially
more speech than is necessary to further the government’s interest. The Supreme Court has said that the First
Amendment recognizes that free speech is so important that we don’t want the government
to pass an overbroad law that stifles the rights of people to express themselves in
fear that they might be prosecuted under a certain law. In essence, this law creates a political speech-free zone at the polling place, and political speech-free zones are inconsistent with the
free speech clause of the First Amendment. The best argument for Minnesota is that Burson
v. Freeman, which actually upheld a 100-foot buffer zone on active campaigning, might also extend to a law preventing
passive wearing of any political speech at the polling place. Minnesota relies on the polling place as a
nonpublic forum in arguing that it’s reasonable to ban all political messages at the polling
place. A public forum is a forum that has traditionally
been used for expressive activity, for example, a public sidewalk is a public forum. There’s also a nonpublic forum, in which the
government opens up its property for only a limited purpose. The government argues that because the polling
place is a nonpublic forum, any restrictions on speech need be reasonable and viewpoint-neutral. The potential impact of this case is quite
large. Nine other states have similar laws to Minnesota,
so ruling in this case could affect laws in ten different states. And it would affect not just voters wearing
Tea Party t-shirts, but it would also affect voters who want to wear shirts that say, ACLU,
NAACP, or even #MeToo at polling places in their state.

5 Comments

  • foxpup

    The whole issue along with voter ID issues would be mute if we just voted on a public block chain. No hanging chads, no rushing to the polls and greatly reduced if not elimated fraud caused by dishonest poll workers.

  • David Gauthier

    He wasn't able to vote because he was wearing a political shirt and that's against the law. Stop pretending the Republican party is the party of law & order when all you do is bitch when something doesn't go your way.

  • dennis Kyritsis

    You have an error in the video. As the court opinion noted, the max fine is 300 dollars ("That administrative
    body may also refer the complaint to the county attorney for prosecution as a petty misdemeanor; the maximum penalty is a $300 fine. §§211B.11(4) (Supp. 2017), 211B.35(2) (2014), 609.02(4a) (2016). "). Not 5,000 dollars as the video suggestions.

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