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Right-leaning group asks Supreme Court to review apparel restrictions at voting places

The right-leaning Pacific Legal Foundation is asking the Supreme Court to review a Minnesota law that prevents people from wearing shirts, hats and other clothing that makes political statements at polling places, a law the group says violates the First Amendment. “Minnesota has gone far beyond legitimate regulation and is now attempting to stifle the speech of voters of all ideological beliefs,” said Wen Fa, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, in a statement. “Instead of merely telling people they can’t wear campaign paraphernalia when they vote, the state’s sweeping restrictions can be used against any kind of apparel that reflects personal values, no matter how nonpolitical the message. From unions to the Tea Party, this is a broad ban that threatens the free speech rights of everyone.”

The Pacific Legal Foundation has asked the Supreme Court to look at the case of Andrew Cilek, who wore[1] a “Please I.D. Me” button and North Star Tea Party Patriots t-shirt to his polling place to vote in the 2010 election. An election worker twice prevented Cilek from voting, according to the Pacific Legal Foundation’s petition[2], because such attire is prohibited under Minnesota[3] law[4].

A district court dismissed[5] the case and a split[6] decision of the 8th Circuit upheld the state’s ban. Now, the Pacific Legal Foundation hopes the Supreme Court will take a fresh look at the case. “Political apparel bans like the one here would have prevented voters from wearing any one of the tens of thousands of political artifacts featured in every presidential election since 1828,” the Pacific Legal Foundation wrote[7] in its petition. “Today, the same bans may reach common statements such as “God Bless America,” “a shirt displaying the name of a religious school,” or “red and blue shirts, which may be construed to connote support for the Republican or Democratic Party.”

No more oral arguments are scheduled[8] for the present Supreme Court’s term, as it considering whether to grant or deny cases and delivering opinions until the term ends in June.


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