Federalism Essay Fall 2018

In the state of Minnesota voters have flaunted their political opinions on t-shirts, hats, pins and other apparel while voting since 2010. It all began with “Tea Party” t-shirts and pins with the phrase “please I.D me” which came from a failed legislation which would’ve required Minnesota’s residents to show photo ID when voting. State officials did not allow these t-shirts or buttons to be worn while voting and those wearing these shirts were asked to cover up. This lead the voters organization to file a lawsuit. Over the years this has triggered voter intimidation at the polls and is sparking disputes.
Minnesota’s state government has aimed to stop this by proposing stricter restrictions to the federal government on what is and what is not permitted to be worn to the polls. This has caused conflict between the federal and state governments. This is an issue mainly due to the fact that Minnesota has extremely broad limitations on what is appropriate to be worn while voting. Minnesota argued that other states have laws similar to the restrictions they would like to have. The supreme court ultimately decided to strike down the broad restrictions but gave approval to the states to setting certain limits on voter’s outfits during voting.

The federal government states that placing limits on voting attire violates the free speech clause of the first amendment. A substantial argument for the federal government is that the word “political” is not clearly defined in Minnesota’s state laws, making it very difficult to validate. Minnesota’s view of the word political included anything that referred to anyone or anything with political opinions attached, which the federal government saw to be very unrealistic. Other states that have placed restrictions on voting apparel have much more strict and defined laws unlike Minnesota. The state government believes that voting is a time for final decision making, not a time for campaigning. The state of Minnesota believes the restrictions they were asking for were rational and necessary for keeping the peace during voting sessions.

I believe that this issue does not need to be regulated by the state governments. Regulations from the federal government that are the same for all states would be appropriate. Many states have placed certain restrictions on this issue, but most vary from state to state. The federal government placing a restriction that is the same for all states would eliminate some of the controversy on this issue. The state should define the word “political” in this case rather than leaving it up to the states. For this particular circumstance I believe that as long as voters are not forcing their opinions onto others or harassing each other, what they chose to wear on their person is not really affecting the decisions of other voters. Wearing a democrat or republican shirt, or a Gretchen Whitmer or Bill Schuette hat doesn’t really harm others in any way or influence their decisions. I see this to be no different than attending a football game at the spartan stadium wearing a wolverine shirt, you are choosing to support the opposing team and that is your right. If and when you begin to harass or force your opinions onto other fans is when it becomes a problem.

As a result this issue went all the way to the supreme court as Minnesota Voters Alliance vs. Mansky. The supreme court has resolved this issue by granting the state of Minnesota power to place some limits on the apparel voters are allowed to wear to the polls but cannot place limits on “political” apparel because the definition isn’t clearly established. The final ruling states that this violates the free speech clause of the first amendment. This demonstrates federalism and shows that the state and federal governments both have power and work together but ultimately what the federal government rules always dominates the state governments. Minnesota can place limitations on what is appropriate to be worn, but cannot restrict political attire in the polls.

Works Cited

Gresko, J. (2018, June 14). Justices Strike Down Minnesota Voter Clothing Restrictions. Retrieved September 22, 2018, from https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2018-06-14/supreme-court-strikes-down-minnesotas-voter-clothing-law

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