District Court Approves Consent Decree Lifting Minnesota’s Vote-by-Mail Restrictions

August 4, 2020 by Reece Nations
Mail-in ballots are processed at the Chester County Voter Services office in West Chester, Pa., prior to the primary election. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – A consent decree approved by the Ramsey County District Court has struck down two key requirements pertaining to vote-by-mail restrictions in Minnesota.

The civil suit, filed by a group of individual voter-plaintiffs and the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund, was supported in court by the National Redistricting Foundation. The suit was filed in May regarding the constitutionality and enforcement of the “Witness Requirement” and the “Election Day Receipt Deadline.”

“The anticipated influx of absentee by-mail voting in both the upcoming August primary and November general election promise to exacerbate the disenfranchising effects of these restrictions, and they deserve critical attention,” the NRF said of the suit on their website.

The defendants challenged Minnesota’s rule requiring each mail-in ballot to be “witnessed by a registered Minnesota voter, a notary, or person otherwise authorized to administer oaths,” according to the consent decree’s text. Additionally, the latter rule stipulated “that ballots be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day if delivered by mail.”

These requirements were challenged in court on the basis that the novel coronavirus pandemic has presented complications that render the requirements “unnecessarily burdensome,” according to a statement from the NRF. The consent decree was limited only to the Nov. 3, 2020 general election.

In accordance with the court’s ruling, the state will not enforce the witness requirement for any mail-in ballots submitted by registered voters. Also, mail-in ballots will be counted as long as they are received by close of business two days after the election and postmarked by Election Day.

“This is a major victory for voters in Minnesota who will now face fewer unnecessary barriers to the ballot box as we deal with the current health crisis,”said Eric Holder, the attorney general during the Obama administration who now runs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an arm of which sponsored the lawsuit. “Elected officials in other states should follow the lead of Minnesota and be more responsive to the health and civic needs of their constituents. We will continue pushing more states to expand safe voting options so that no American is forced into a choice between casting a ballot or risking their health.”

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