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Supreme court hears arguments on political apparel in polling places

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [text, PDF] Monday in a case challenging a Minnesota law that bans political apparel in polling places.

The Minnesota law [text, PDF] at issue states, "A political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day." Thus, the question before the Court is whether the statute is facially overbroad and violates the First Amendment.

The petitioner, Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA), argued the statute is overbroad in its language because it bans more speech than necessary to protect the government's legitimate interests. MVA suggests the first sentence of the statute, which bans electoral speech, is enough to accomplish the government's goal.

The state argued in response that the statute is not overbroad and that the contested provision is necessary to protect its strong legitimate interest. When pressed about the statutes scope, the state said:

This Court has recognized that ensuring the integrity of our electoral process and protecting the fundamental right to vote are government interests of the highest order and that laws advancing these important interests may constitutionally limit speech. Minnesota's prohibition on political apparel in the polling place is such a law. This law protects the integrity of the elections by preserving order and decorum in the polling place, and preventing voter confusion and intimidation.
The court continued to break down the state's argument to assess whether the statute as a whole is even necessary being that political apparel typically is not a threat that would seem to keep people out of polling places.

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