ACRU

ACRU: Free Speech for Thee but Not for Me?

Minnesota voter had right to wear Gadsden flag and “Please I.D. Me” button at polling place

ALEXANDRIA, VA (July 5, 2017) —- The Supreme Court should reverse a lower court’s dismissal of the claim of a Minnesota man who says his First Amendment rights were violated when he went to the polls to vote but was told to leave or change his attire.

In a brief filed on Monday in Minnesota Voters Alliance, et al. v. Joe Mansky, et al., the American Civil Rights Union argues that restrictions on messaging at polling places have been overly broad and that a Minnesota-based case deserves rehearing to resolve conflicting court rulings.

The case involves a man who sued for the right to wear a Tea Party-associated Gadsden flag T-shirt and a “Please I.D. Me” button when voting. Minnesota law prohibits the wearing of political messages on clothing and buttons in polling places and within 100 feet of them.

The Minnesota case contrasts with other instances in which election officials overlooked open campaigning on behalf of Barack Obama, including the presence of an Obama poster on a polling place wall and poll workers wearing partisan T-shirts.

“There is no suggestion that [Andrew E.] Cilek was interfering with the integrity of the election process or blocking access to the polls,” states the brief, written by ACRU General Counsel Ken Klukowski and attorney John J. Park, Jr. “There were no Tea Party candidates on the ballot, so no last-minute campaigning was going on. Likewise, voter ID is not required by Minnesota law. Accordingly, Cilek was engaged in issue advocacy, and that advocacy should be protected by the First Amendment.”

“This is a crucial First Amendment case,” said ACRU President Susan A. Carleson. “We hope the Court will rule in favor of free speech and against overly strict regulations that have been selectively applied.”

For interviews contact Robert Knight at robert.knight@theacru.org.