SCOTUS Rules Voters Can Wear What They Want at the Polls

An attendee wears a "DON'T TREAD ON ME" shirt during a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson at the Sharonville Convention Center, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Minnesota law banning “political” apparel when going to vote violates the First Amendment’s right to free speech.


In delivering the opinion of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the law does not define what apparel is “political,” a word he that said can be expansive.

“It can encompass anything ‘of or relating to government, a government, or the conduct of governmental affairs,’” he said, quoting Webster’s dictionary definition. “Under a literal reading of those definitions a button or T-shirt merely imploring others to ‘Vote!’ could qualify.”

Roberts was joined in this latest No-Duh decision by Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. As with last week’s Masterpiece Cake Shop decision, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer were in the minority.

According to the Minnesota Voters Alliance, — the organization whose founder, Andrew Cilek, sued election officials after he was forced to cover a “Don’t tread on me” t-shirt emblazoned with a Gadsden flag — the decision affects at least nine other states with similar laws barring political apparel from polling sites: Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Kansas, Montana, and Deleware.


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