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It’s OK to Ban Voters From Wearing 2nd Amendment T-Shirts at the Polls, Minnesota Tells SCOTUS

Phil Roeder / Flickr.comPhil Roeder / Flickr.comThe U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case that asks whether Minnesota violated the First Amendment when it banned voters from wearing a vast array of political badges, buttons, insignias, and other attire at polling places. Facing sharp questioning this morning from the justices, the state's lawyer admitted that the law could even be used to ban t-shirts featuring the text of the Second Amendment or the pro-gay rights rainbow flag.

The case is Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky. It originated in 2010 when Andrew Cilek, the executive director of the conservative group Minnesota Voters Alliance, tried to vote while wearing a t-shirt adorned with an image of the Gadsen Flag, the phrase "Don't Tread on Me," and a Tea Party Patriots logo. Cilek was also wearing a "Please I.D. Me" button from the conservative group Election Integrity Watch.

J. David Breemer, the lawyer representing the Minnesota Voters Alliance in its constitutional challenge, told the justices that the statute should be struck down for being unconstitutionally overbroad because it prohibits bedrock forms of expression that have nothing to do with any candidate, campaign, or party, such as "shirts that simply say AFL-CIO, Chamber of Commerce, [or] NAACP." The law "seeks to silence so much peaceful conventional messaging by the blunt means of—of outlawing everything," he argued.

Daniel Rogan, the lawyer representing Minnesota elections official Joe Mansky, did not exactly do a winning job of countering Breemer's claim. In fact, Rogan all but conceded that the state law is indeed an arbitrary violation of the Constitution, as evinced by this revealing exchange he had with Justice Samuel Alito:

Justice Alito: How about a shirt with a rainbow flag? Would that be permitted?

Mr. Rogan: A shirt with a rainbow flag? No, it would be—yes, it would be—it would be permitted unless there was—unless there was an issue on the ballot that—that related somehow to—to gay rights….

Justice Alito: Okay. How about an NRA shirt?

Mr. Rogan: An NRA shirt? Today, in Minnesota, no, it would not, Your Honor. I think that that's a clear indication—and I think what you're getting at, Your Honor—

Justice Alito: How about a shirt with the text of the Second Amendment?

Mr. Rogan: Your Honor, I—I—I think that that could be viewed as political, that that—that would be—that would be —

Justice Alito: How about the First Amendment?

(Laughter.)

There you have it. Minnesota's lawyer was forced to admit that this sweeping law allows the state to forbid voters from wearing t-shirts at polling places that feature an excerpt from the Bill of Rights. If that's not an overreaching restriction on constitutionally protected speech, what is?

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  • creech||

    Too bad the people who pass these patently unconstitutional laws can't be fined or penalized for the waste of taxpayers' money it takes to hear the cases.

  • ace_m82||

    They can be, just not legally...

  • EscherEnigma||

    Well, their constituents can always vote them out.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Minnesotans are now required to enter the polling place naked. Unless they have tattoos that could be construed as a conveying notion or idea. Then you go to the line of people rejected because they didn't have proper identification.

  • Finrod||

    Reminds me of the story of a cop that pulled over a member of the Hell's Angels.

    Cop didn't like the Hell's Angels logo on the guy's jacket, tells him to remove it. He does so revealing a sweatshirt with the Hell's Angels logo. Cop tells him to remove that too, revealing a t-shirt with the Hell's Angels logo. Cop tells him to remove that too, revealing a Hell's Angels tattoo.

  • Brian||

    No one wants to take your free speech away.

  • Longtobefree||

    These are just common sense regulations - - - - - - -

  • Gaffer Tape||

    I was a voting judge for multiple years in MN and this law always baffled me. I refused to enforce it, but some of my fellow judges had no qualms about it. I would say things like, "There's no way this is constitutional." but they would just respond with something like, "It's not our job to interpret the law, just enforce it."

    Also, election judges are usually not very bright.

  • DiegoF||

    Neither are regular judges, all too often. I did like getting such an august-sounding title with barely so much as a literacy test though.

  • Morbo||

    "What do you call a lawyer who graduated with a 2.0 GPA?"

    "You're Honor."

  • Cloudbuster||

    And the lawyer with the 2.0 GPA probably won't even notice the spelling error.

  • GILMORE™||

    ""The executive director of the conservative group Minnesota Voters Alliance, tried to vote while wearing a t-shirt adorned with an image of the Gadsen Flag, the phrase "Don't Tread on Me," and a Tea Party Patriots logo.""

    WTF its not even explicitly naming a party or a candidate.

    (reads rest of article)

    ""the statute should be struck down for being unconstitutionally overbroad because it prohibits bedrock forms of expression that have nothing to do with any candidate, campaign, or party,""

    (smacks forehead)
    and this didn't actually convince the lower court judges? how did this even get to the supreme court?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    That was a rhetorical question, right?

  • Bubba Jones||

    At what point does Rogan just apologize and say he didn't want to be here defending this stupid law but it was his job?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You will still see 4 lefty justices vote to try and give government more power to ban t-shirts.

  • MasterThief||

    Time will tell, but I'm hopeful this prediction will be incorrect. Unfortunately, I have read too many rulings from them to believe they aren't inclined in that direction. It really is worrying that they are on the SC and that some of their blatantly anti-constitutional positions are not enough to constitute removal.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Based on my reading of the included transcript, it's almost as if Minnesota's top litigator wasn't prepared for questions as basic as he was getting. This lawyer gig must take any-fucking-one.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its been a racket for some time. They try and keep out hard charging wanna-be lawyers who will push constitutional issues and fight for defendants.

  • fdog50||

    It's possible that he knew going in that he would get pounded like this. He knew he couldn't come up with any kind of logical responses to all of the hypotheticals that all of the judges would throw at him. He probably now is thankful that Clarence Thomas is on the Court because he almost never asks questions. This law should be invalidated because it invites totally arbitrary and capricious enforcement.

  • Curly4||

    It's OK to Ban Voters From Wearing 2nd Amendment T-Shirts at the Polls, Minnesota Tells SCOTUS

    Would they do the same thing for a voter wearing a 1st Amendment T-Shirt at the Polls? It they ban t-shirt with one Amendment on it they they would have to ban t-shirts with any amendments on it. But then they would be violating the constitution, namely the 1st Amendment.

  • Jimbo||

    See, it's like this: A 1st Amendment shirt is ok, because it's the 1st Amendment, got it? The 2nd Amendment would not be ok, because it's not the 1st Amendment.

    I hope that clears it up.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    They reached into the guy's pocket and found a 4th amendment handkerchief.

  • Longtobefree||

    Which they kept under asset forfeiture laws - - - - - - - - -

  • Hank Phillips||

    "And Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade." --Ayn Rand, 1957

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    The question is, can I have text of the nineteenth amendment? Can I have text that provides the right to vote block my ability to vote?

  • Greg F||

    So Minnesota has a voting place dress code? Wonder if they allow pussy hats?

  • Hank Phillips||

    With Al "Global Warming" Franken unfrocked for groping? Shirley yuge-est!

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    I do jest, and don't call me Shirley.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    And yes, I have seen a grown man naked so don't ask. No, it wasn't Crusty. Not that he didn't try.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    But they're so gooooooood on civil rights!!!!

  • Hank Phillips||

    This is a rerun. When the Federal Reserve banks okayed loans for Allies to buy currency and materiél for The Great War, there was panic when Russia turned Soviet and quit. These States rushed to fill the gap with conscripts, 13th Amendment be damned, so the loans could be collected by proper victors. One socialist passed out swastika-covered leaflets urging conscripts to invoke the 13th amendment. He was railroaded through mock trials all the way to La Suprema Corte which declared all Americans slaves of the Military-Industrial complex. And to this day youngsters are forced to submit to registration as potential cannon fodder. This is the same court that recently let faceless artificial persons buy elections, and does not challenge the Nixon anti-libertarian electioneering subsidies law of 1971!

  • Eeyore||

    Your plain white t-shirt says too much, you can't vote.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Hey there, Delilah...

  • Cloudbuster||

    It's OK to be (a) White (cotton t-shirt).

  • NaiveLubertarian||

    White is the new black.

  • Brian||

    So let me get his straight, Minnesota:

    Voter ID laws are a crime against democracy, but voter dress code laws are awesome?

    Sounds legit.

  • Ecoli||

    When you say it like that it sounds bad. But when you point out gun violence and the NRA strangle hold on democracy, it sounds better.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    What?

  • buybuydandavis||

    Justice Alito: How about the First Amendment?
    (Laughter.)

    That was funny.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Comedy gold.

  • fdog50||

    After that exchange about "No to Second Amendment, Yes to the First Amendment", Alito, or any one of the justices should have asked "What about a shirt with the entire Bill of Rights printed on it?"

  • DAmerkin||

    Not my state but ... what is wrong with people today? So busy destroying the country with no idea of what it will become, the destruction and death that will ensue and absolutely no idea how to correctly fix whatever perceived "wrong" they are so hell bent on the destruction over.

    Sadly, I see my state slowly becoming askew and it worries me deeply.

  • Longtobefree||

    They have an exact idea of what it will become.
    And they will rule, and you will not.

    Welcome to the revolution.

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