United States District Court, D. Minnesota
For Minnesota Majority, Minnesota Voters Alliance, Minnesota Northstar, Tea Party Patriots, Election Integrity Watch represented, Susan Jeffers individually and as an election judge, Dan McGrath, Andy Cilek, Plaintiffs: Erick G Kaardal Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A. Mpls, MN.
For JoeMansky, inhisofficialcapacityastheElectionsManagerforRamseyCounty,Defendant: Robert B Roche LEAD ATTORNEY, Ramsey County Attorney's Office, St Paul, MN.
For Virginia Gelms, in her individual and official capacity as the Elections Manager for Hennepin County, Mike Freeman, in his official capacity as Hennepin County Attorney, Defendants: Beth A Stack, Daniel P Rogan, Hennepin County Attorney's Office, Mpls, MN.
For Mark Ritchie, in his official capacity as Secretary of State, Defendant: Christie B Eller, Nathan J Hartshorn, Minnesota Attorney General's Office - Ste 1800, St Paul, MN.
For Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Amicus: Leanne L Matchen, Mariah L Reynolds, Vernle C Durocher, Jr, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Mpls, MN; Marcia-NA F. Johnson-Blanco, Mark-NA A. Posner, Robert-NA A. Kengle.
JOAN N. ERICKSEN, United States District Judge.
This case is before the Court on a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment
brought by Defendant Mark Ritchie, the Minnesota Secretary of State. In response, the Plaintiffs have filed their own motion requesting that the Court deny or delay disposition of that motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d).
For the reasons discussed below, Ritchie's motion is granted in part and denied in part, while the Plaintiffs' motion, except insofar as it is moot, is denied.
This action was filed in the days before the November 2, 2010 general election by several individual and institutional Plaintiffs against the Minnesota Secretary of State and Hennepin and Ramsey county election officials. The goal of the suit was to prevent the Defendants from prohibiting voters from wearing Plaintiff Election Integrity Watch's " Please I.D. Me" buttons as well as hats and t-shirts bearing the insignia and slogans of Plaintiff North Star Tea Party Patriots to the polls.
At the center of the case, then, is Minn. Stat. § 211B.11, subd. 1. That provision of state law reads in relevant part as follows:
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. A person may not provide political badges, political buttons, or other political insignia to be worn at or about the polling place on the day of a primary or election. A political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day. This section applies to areas established by the county auditor or municipal clerk for absentee voting as provided in chapter 203B.
After filing their Complaint, the Plaintiffs quickly sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The Court denied the motion on the eve of the general election.
Virtually immediately afterward, an individual in Secretary Ritchie's office sent an email to all of the county elections officers in the state. Attached to that email was a memorandum, which the parties refer to as the Election Day Policy. It reads as follows (emphasis in original):
Please use the following process when dealing with an individual who is displaying political or campaign material in the polling place.
1. Minnesota law prohibits persons from wearing " political badges, political buttons, or other political insignia" or displaying campaign material within the polling place.
2. Election judges have the authority to decide what is " political." Examples include, but are not limited to:
o Any item including the name of a political party in Minnesota, such as the Republican, DFL, Independence, Green or Libertarian parties.
o Any item including the name of a candidate at any election.
o Any item in support of or opposition to a ballot question at any election.
o Issue oriented material designed to influence or impact voting (including specifically the " Please I.D. Me" buttons).
o Material promoting a group with recognizable political views (such as the Tea Party, MoveOn.org, and so on)
3. If a person is wearing political material, you should do the following:
o Explain that state election law prohibits displaying political materials in the polling place. (Minnesota ...