Election Judges: See New Guidance on Polling Place Clothing and Behavior

Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State has issued guidance following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on political apparel in polling places.
(Published Jul 2, 2018)

New guidance has been issued for election judges on polling place clothing and behavior following a June 14, 2018 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State advises the following process when dealing with an individual who is displaying campaign material or otherwise inducing or persuading another voter within the polling place:

  1. Explain that state election law prohibits displaying campaign material or inducing or persuading other voters in the polling place (Minn. Stat. §211B.11, subd. 1);
  2. Ask the individual to either cover up or remove the campaign material while in the polling place, or to refrain from inducing or persuading other voters; and
  3. If they refuse, explain that eligible voters will be allowed to vote, but any refusal will be recorded and referred to appropriate authorities.
  4. Even if a voter refuses to do so, you must permit any eligible voter to receive a ballot and vote.
  5. Record the names and addresses of a voter from the polling place roster along with a brief description of the campaign material that the voter refused to remove or cover up, or a description of any other way in which the voter was inducing or persuading another voter.
  6. Election judges and official challengers are prohibited from displaying campaign material in the polling place, or inducing or persuading voters. If they refuse to remove the campaign materials, or to stop inducing or persuading voters, you can ask them to leave.

Why the change?

The U.S. Supreme Court found this part of Minnesota law unconstitutional: “A political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day.” —View the opinion here: Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, No. 16-1435 (pdf)

The case started in 2010 when members of the Minnesota Voters Alliance wore t-shirts bearing Tea Party logos and buttons that read, “Please I.D. Me” at Minnesota polling places. They were told to cover the messages and were allowed to vote even if they refused.

While the decision found that language to be unconstitutional, it appears that the remainder of the statute is still in force, including the first sentence:

“A person may not display campaign material, post signs, ask, solicit, or in any manner try to induce or persuade a voter within a polling place or within 100 feet of the building in which a polling place is situated, or anywhere on the public property on which a polling place is situated, on primary or election day to vote for or refrain from voting for a candidate or ballot question.”

“Campaign materials” is defined in Minn. Stat. § 211B.01 as:

“… any literature, publication, or material that is disseminated for the purpose of influencing ‘voting at a primary or other election, except for news items or editorial comments by the news media.’”

Campaign materials include:

  • Any item including the name of a political party that has candidates designated under that party name on the ballot of the current election, for example, DFL or Republican. A minor party is not present on the primary ballot, therefore displaying campaign material, including apparel bearing a minor party name or the name of a political principle, for example, Libertarian, Independence, and the like at the primary is not prohibited. However, at the general election, such display would be prohibited if they were on the ballot.
  • Any item including the name of a candidate on the ballot at the current election. The name of a candidate who will appear only on the general election ballot, but not the primary, is not prohibited at the primary but is prohibited at the general election when that candidate appears on that ballot.
  • Any item in support of or in opposition to a ballot question appearing on the ballot that day.

Read the current issue of the Cities Bulletin

* By posting you are agreeing to the LMC Comment Policy.