Political News

DCCC and DSCC sue Minnesota over voter assistance law

Posted January 24, 2020 4:30 p.m. EST

— The campaign arms of the Democratic Party are suing Minnesota over an election law that limits voter assistance.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday announced they are seeking to challenge the constitutionality of a Minnesota law that mandates that a person may help no more than three voters complete their in-person or absentee ballots.

The committees contend that the law has the ability to effect "non-English speakers and people with disabilities" disproportionately.

"There's no place in our society for laws that make it harder for older Americans, non-English speakers and people with disabilities to cast their ballots. We should be working to increase access to the ballot, not restrict it," DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos, a congresswoman from Illinois, said in a statement.

The law dates to back to 1959, when voter assistant limits first started appearing in some form under state statutes, according to Risikat Adesaogun, a spokesperson with Secretary of State Steve Simon's office.

According to the committees, this latest lawsuit is part of a larger eight-figure commitment to fighting voter suppression in battleground states like North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Arizona.

The suit is also the most recent challenge to the state's election law. Last February, Minnesota state Rep. Samantha Vang pushed to amend the state law, citing the growing Hmong-American community in the state. Vang, who is Hmong American, noted that the law would affect people with English proficiency challenges -- including her own family.

Vang stated at the time that the limit would prevent her from bringing her parents and grandparents "who don't speak English to the polls."

Because the law only allows a person to assist up to three people with their ballots, she would be forced her to "make a choice of having to leave one of them out."

"I authored a bill in 2019 to lift restrictions on helping voters cast their ballots, and was passed in the House but stalled in the Senate. I hope to see this unjust law changed, either through the courts or the legislative process," Vang said in a statement Thursday.

Simon spokesperson Adesaogun said that the Secretary of State's office does not comment on pending litigation.

The spokesperson did point to previous comments made by Simon during a hearing on amending the law in January 2019.

At that hearing, the Secretary of State warned of potential challenges to the voting law. He cited a Texas case in which a federal court of appeals struck down a law that required interpreters who helped voters fill out ballots be registered voters within the same county.

Simon suggested that the Minnesota law wouldn't hold up against a court challenge under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"If I have to just be blunt about it, I think we can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way," Simon said at the hearing. "The easy way would be to pass this bill and get this antiquated law off the books. ... Or we can do it the hard way: which is not repeal this law, be sued, pretty sure we lose, incur a bunch of attorneys fees, and have a court tell us to repeal the law."

Arkansas, the only other state with a similar law, allows a person to assist up to six people in an election.

Hillary Clinton won Minnesota by a slim margin in 2016, getting 46.44% over Trump's 44.92%. The state recently faced a court challenge to its Republican ballot that only lists President Donald Trump; the Minnesota Supreme Court denied the petition to add other names to the GOP ballot. The state is also in the midst of its first presidential primary, instead of caucuses, in almost 30 years.

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