The Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision Thursday that a law in Minnesota banning political attire at polling places violates the First Amendment, The Hill reports. The case stems from elections in 2010, when state officials initially prevented a voter in a Tea Party shirt from casting a ballot due to a 1912 state law prohibiting "political insignia" at polling places.
"The state must draw a reasonable line," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the majority, arguing that the prohibition of anything "political" was too broad, CNN reports. To prove his point, he read the definition of the word: "It can encompass anything 'of or relating to government, a government, or the conduct of governmental affairs,' or anything 'of, relating to, or dealing with the structure or affairs of government, politics, or the state.'" Roberts said that under the law, even shirts saying "vote!" or "support our troops" could violate the law.
Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented. Sotomayor suggested the case bounce back to the Minnesota Supreme Court instead to decide if "political" might have a more specific meaning in regards to the clothing law. A lower court had earlier upheld the ban, claiming that it kept "peace, order, and decorum" at polling places, an argument also made by supporters of the law.
Minnesota said 10 other states had similar laws regarding political attire. Jeva Lange