ACLU urges U.S. Supreme Court to uphold First Amendment rights at polling places

January 17, 2018

Contact: Aliya Khan,, 651-644-5264 (office), 812-230-4241(cell)

St. Paul, Minn. —The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a brief Friday in support of free speech rights in the case Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The case challenges Minnesota’s electioneering law, arguing it is vague and suppresses freedom of speech because it bans all forms of political expression, near polling places.  The case was filed by the Minnesota Voters Alliance on behalf of one of its members who was turned away from the polls in 2010 for wearing a “Please ID Me” button.

Minnesota’s statute calls for election judges to forbid individuals from wearing apparel with “political badges,” “political buttons,” or “political insignia” in polling places (Minn. Stat. § 211B.11).  As Minnesota’s Election Day Policy interprets the statute, the word “political” includes any message considered to be issue-oriented or promoting a group with recognizable political views.

In its brief, the ACLU argues that, while anti-electioneering laws are important to prevent intimidation and harassment at the polls, they should not ban all political expression. Anti-electioneering statutes should prohibit voters only from engaging in speech or expression in support of a candidate or issue on the ballot. The ACLU argues that Minnesota’s broad statute violates the First Amendment because it restricts more speech than necessary to prevent electioneering.

“Minnesota’s law forces voters to choose between self-expression and voting. A law as broad and vague as Minnesota’s could mean voters are turned away for wearing a #MeToo button or a Black Lives Matter t-shirt,” stated John Gordon, executive director of the ACLU-MN. “Expressing who you are is not electioneering. We want to make sure that everyone has their right to self-expression protected when the vote this fall.”

The ACLU is asking in its brief for the court to invalidate Minnesota’s anti-electioneering statute. If the court sides with the ACLU, it would be up to the Minnesota legislature to re-write the statute.

The case is scheduled for arguments on February 28, 2019 and a decision is expected in the spring.

Link to brief