Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Minnesotan's Case for Political Apparel at the Polls

February 28, 2018 05:58 AM

When you head to the polls, should you be allowed to wear political apparel?

It's currently against the law in Minnesota, but it may not be for much longer, as the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday in a case that began with an altercation in an Eden Prairie church in 2010.


RELATED: High Court Asked to Iron out Polling Place Clothing Dispute

That's when Andy Cilek, the executive director of self-described election watchdog group Minnesota Voters Alliance showed up at his local precinct wearing a Tea Party T-shirt as well as a button that said, "please I.D. me." A local election worker told him to cover up the shirt and button, but Cilek refused and eventually filed suit.

"The real issue here is whether or not the free speech rights that we enjoy on a daily basis as Americans extend to the polling place," Cilek said. "It doesn't matter if you're with the League of Women Voters or Black Lives Matter, you should have a right to wear what you want to wear."

Among the defendants in the case is Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who said he believes Cilek is overreacting.

"My sense of the First Amendment is not offended by saying, 'Tea Party folks, don't wear your "I.D. me please" buttons into the polling place.' I'd like to be left alone when I go to vote," Freeman said.

Regardless of the outcome, the case is significant.

RELATED: Supreme Court to Take Up Minnesota Statute On Polling Place Attire

University of Minnesota professor Timothy Johnson explained that while between 8,000 and 9,000 litigants ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their cases every year, justices typically hear fewer than 80 each term.

"It is so difficult to get a case to the U.S. Supreme court these days," Johnson said.

He added that the court is likely to rule on the case by the end of June.


Josh Rosenthal

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