Election Integrity Watch, a coalition of groups including Minnesota Majority and the North Star Tea Party Patriots, filed suit in district court on Thursday afternoon against the state of Minnesota to allow their members to wear “Please ID Me” buttons and tea party t-shirts at polling places throughout the state. EIW alleges that Minnesota has widespread voter fraud, though experts have disputed that claim. The group is offering a $500 bounty on reports of voter fraud that lead to prosecution.
“The statutory interpretations made and policies promulgated by County and State officials are violative of the freedom of speech, the freedom of association, and the freedom to vote as protected under the article 1 § 3 of the Minnesota Constitution and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the complaint says.
Under Minnesota law, election judges and voters cannot wear political materials in a polling place.
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 ….on primary or election day to vote for or refrain from voting for a candidate or a ballot question … A political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day.
Freeman: No election fraud buttons in polling places
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told Talking Points Memo on Wednesday that the county won’t allow political buttons in polling places. Election Integrity Watch, a conservative anti-voter fraud group, has announced a campaign that includes anti-voter fraud buttons, and it says it will challenge Freeman’s decision.
“You can’t wear campaign buttons in a polling place, state law says you can’t,” said Freeman, a DFLer. “And election judges can’t even wear, you know, ‘Stamp Out Election Fraud.’ So that’s going to be interesting in the next few days.”
But Dan MacGrath of Minnesota Majority told the Minnesota Independent that his group is prepared to challenge that ban, although he acknowledged it wouldn’t have much impact on the group’s anti-fraud campaign, which includes a $500 reward for successful prosecution of voter fraud as well as distribution of buttons that say “Please ID Me.”
“If it holds up [to a legal challenge], it won’t have much impact, except for the loss of a visible fraud deterrent in the polling place,” he said. “We believe the decision violates the First Amendment and Minnesota statute. I’ve been on contact with Hennepin County Elections about this and am waiting to see the written memo.”
“Clearly, these buttons are not about any specific political candidate, party or ballot question,” said Jeff Davis, president of Minnesota Majority. “This ban is outside state law and a clear violation of our First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.”
Aside from “Please ID Me” buttons, tea partiers want the right to wear shirts into polling places with phrases like “Don’t tread on me,” “Liberty,” “We’ll Remember in November,” and “Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, Free Markets” along with the tea party logo.
Randy Liebo of the North Star Tea Party Patriots said in a statement, “We have heard about the woman who was turned away from the polls in Arizona for simply wearing a Gadsden Flag pin. She was so upset that she left and never returned to vote. She was disenfranchised by a policy that’s just wrong.”
The lawsuit has already drawn criticism.
TakeAction Minnesota, a left-leaning group, released a statement on the lawsuit.
“Minnesota Majority’s latest attempt to intimidate voters as they head to the polls to vote on Tuesday is a punch in the face to U.S. democracy,” said president Dan McGrath. “These lawsuits, are designed to do one thing — draw media attention to their invented case of voter fraud in order to intimidate and scare voters away from the polls. It’s nothing more than an election year political stunt. There is no evidence whatsoever that Minnesotans are organizing to commit voter fraud, and reporting on this as serious news only helps them further their political agenda.”