BREAKING: New SCOTUS decision may result in intimidation at the polls
The Supreme Court decided a major voting rights case today, Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, finding that a Minnesota law banning political apparel in polling places is unconstitutional. The League of Women Voters Minnesota signed onto a legal brief with the Brennan Center for Justice and the League of Women Voters of the United States opposing this outcome.
LWV Minnesota argued that the law is put in place to safeguard the right to vote. People should be able to vote without fear of harassment or intimidation at a polling place. Voting is our most sacred right and these limited regulations on speech inside of polling places are necessary to protect the integrity and fairness of the voting process.
Today, the Supreme Court held in a 7-2 decision that the law violates the free speech of individuals who wish to wear apparel containing political advertising inside the polling place. The Supreme Court held that the law cannot be enforced. The Court agreed that Minnesota can enforce reasonable restrictions on speech in the polling place "to secure the advantages of the secret ballot and protect the right to vote." The Court also agreed that "some forms of advocacy [c]ould be excluded from the polling place."
But ultimately the Court struck down the statute. The Court wrote that the state of Minnesota did not clearly define or consistently enforce the meaning of "political." The Court held that for a state to ban political material in the polling place, "it must employ a more discernible approach than the one Minnesota has offered here."
This decision may increase the likelihood that malicious individuals will attempt to intimidate or confuse other voters at the polls. We now rely on the Minnesota state legislature to pass a new law that has more clarity to meet the Court's standards.
“In balancing two constitutionally protected rights, the Supreme Court shifted the balance to further protect free speech, which we applaud,” said Terry Kalil, president of LWV Minnesota. “However, we express great concern that voters will become subject to political advertising, harassment, or intimidation while they undertake the thoughtful task of casting their ballots. Despite this ruling, we will fight to ensure that the voting booth continues to be free from undue influence.”