Editor’s note: A group of citizen watchdog groups in Minnesota have implemented a program called Election Integrity Watch. Part of the initiative involves wearing buttons to the polls which say “Please ID Me” and presenting photo identification as a silent protest in advocacy of legislation requiring photo identification to vote. In the final days leading up to the election. A handful of state and county election officials banned the buttons, along with any apparel referencing the Tea Party. The groups co-sponsoring Election Integrity Watch filed a lawsuit challenging the ban. The case was heard Monday. The following is addressed to Minnesota voters.
When you head to the polls today, rest assured that your determination to vote for the candidate of your choice will not be derailed by the “intimidating” presence of a button on someone’s shirt reading “Please ID Me.” You will not be lulled into a deep state of hypnosis, and compelled to vote against your intent, upon gazing at a t-shirt promoting Tea Party Patriots.
There are two reasons for this. One, you are an intelligent self-determining individual able to hold your course despite others’ apparel. Two, on Monday, a U.S. district court judge ruled in favor of restricting such apparel.
U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen said Monday that the items could be viewed as political, and that the polling place is supposed to be a place of “peace, order and decorum.” If anything, she said, the buttons are designed to affect the actual voting process — by suggesting voters are required to show ID.
“This intimation could confuse voters and election officials and cause voters to refrain from voting because of increased delays or the misapprehension that identification is required,” Ericksen explained in a written order shortly after issuing her ruling in court.
Attorneys for election officials noted two of the candidates on the ballot — gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and secretary of state candidate Dan Severson — have made photo identification of voters a campaign issue. They also noted that U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann founded a tea party caucus in Congress.
The right to vote comes with the responsibility to be aware of the law. Anyone who would be “intimidated” by a button saying “Please ID Me” lacks competence.
More to the point, as Judge Erickson acknowledged herself in a joke suggesting voters wear “voting suits… which repel political speech,” the goal election officials are trying to achieve here is subjective and fundamentally misguided. The specific requirement in state statue to not wear campaign material on behalf of a candidate or ballot question is a standard which makes sense. Removing that standard and banning anything that conveys an opinion is an attack upon free speech. This idea that voters need to cast their ballot in a hyperbaric chamber, lest their dainty constitutions be overwhelmed by the slightest influence, is an insult to their maturity and intelligence.
The argument that Tom Emmer and Dan Severson support photo ID, and therefore advocating that issue is the same as campaigning for them, denies voters ownership of their ideas. Are we really saying that, if a candidate expresses an idea, they somehow copyright it? I no longer have the right to express the same idea without the assumption that I support that candidate? What if there where two pro-life candidates in a race and I wore a pro-life shirt into the polls? Which would I be “campaigning” for? What if it was just a shirt with a picture of a baby on it? Where is the subjective line drawn?
Minnesota Majority, North Star Tea Party Patriots, and the Minnesota Voter’s Alliance have advised their members of the ruling and the options available to them. Those determined to wear Election Integrity Watch or Tea Party apparel will have the choice, upon being advised by election judges to cover up or remove the apparel, to comply or risk being charged with a petty misdemeanor. The charge could bring a fine up to $300. Either way, no one will be denied the right to vote.
Cross-posted at Fightin Words.
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota’s North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.