Can Texas ban political T-shirts, buttons from polling places?

Justices to weigh constitutionality of state ban on political apparel at the polls

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider guaranteeing the right of people to wear political T-shirts and buttons when they vote, accepting an appeal that could expand First Amendment rights at polling places. Members of those organizations, concerned about ineligible voters casting ballots, turned up on Election Day wearing buttons reading "Please ID me", and at least one person wore a T-shirt with a Tea Party logo that said "Don't tread on me".

Cilek sued, arguing that the law should be overturned because it violated his free speech rights and was too broad, requiring enforcement based on the subjective judgment by election officials about what types of messages have political overtones.

The Supreme Court said Monday it will take a case challenging the law. "Even if Tea Party apparel is not election-related, it is not unreasonable to prohibit it in a polling place".

The case was filed against former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and the election managers and county attorneys in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Oral arguments have not been scheduled, but a ruling is expected before the court's term ends in late June or early July.

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The law "is a reasonable method to ensure that the polling place is a location where citizens can exercise the right to vote without confusion, distraction or distress, and election officials can preserve the integrity and reliability of elections", the state officials argued.

Minnesota's law bars the wearing of a "political badge, political button or other political insignia" inside the polling place. The area of the ban begins 100 feet from the polling place door, and violators can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 but no jail time. "EIW asserts that the apparel conveys only a philosophy, not an endorsement of particular candidates, ballot measures, or political parties", Judge William Benton wrote for a three-judge panel. That law didn't mention more general political items.

State election officials issued a policy citing examples of political apparel, including "issue oriented material created to influence or impact voting" and "material promoting a group with recognizable political views".

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