By Zac Morgan
If you’ve ever scrolled through Facebook or Twitter, or taken a look at bumpers as you sat in traffic, you know Americans are expressive people. For this, we can thank the First Amendment, which protects even vulgar expression. Indeed, in 1971, the Supreme Court upheld the right of Paul Robert Cohen to wear his jacket, which urged sexual relations with the wartime draft, in a courthouse.
Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a less salacious, but no less important, First Amendment case. Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky asks whether Americans may be barred from wearing “political apparel” when casting a ballot. This policy led to a voter being threatened with prosecution for the “crime” of wearing a nonpartisan t-shirt inspired by the Gadsden flag, the “Don’t Tread on Me” symbol flown by patriots during the American Revolution.
Certainly, if the First Amendment protects profane apparel in a courthouse, Americans ought have the right to wear our opinions at the moment we the people decide who should govern…
At an absolute minimum, as my organization, the Institute for Free Speech, urged in our amicus brief in this case, the Supreme Court should instruct state and local governments to find the middle ground: Only apparel expressly urging a vote for or against a specific candidate on that day’s ballot may be excluded. This line, called “express advocacy,” has been applied and policed in campaign finance law for a generation.
By Zac Morgan
USA Today: Listen up Supreme Court: Warrantless tracking of smartphones violates our rights (In the News)
By Zac Morgan
On Nov. 29, the Supreme Court will review whether the government can get this information without a warrant. The case, Carpenter v. United States, will decide if the Fourth Amendment protects your information.
But the case also raises serious First Amendment issues about the right to free and private association.
Consider what happened during the 1950s when pro-segregation Southern states tried to get the NAACP’s membership list. Those states justified that effort using a range of governmental powers, including corporate registration, legislative investigations, and tax laws. Each time, no matter the excuse, the Supreme Court said no…
If the government can get location data of attendance at private gatherings, there’s little need to demand a membership list…
The Institute for Free Speech filed a brief in Timothy Carpenter’s case raising these concerns. Two left-leaning racial justice organizations, Color of Change and the Center for Media Justice, joined the brief. So did Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Tea Party Patriots, right-leaning organizations which advocate for limited government. Our brief warned that the “chilling effects from this invasive form of government oversight will do grave damage to the First Amendment.”
CCP Staff Attorney Zac Morgan discusses campaign finance and lobbying regulations on Stacy on the Right (beginning at 19:20).