Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Lawmaker Looks to Eliminate One of Minnesota’s Peculiar, and Possibly Illegal, Election Rules

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Lawmaker Looks to Eliminate One of Minnesota’s Peculiar, and Possibly Illegal, Election Rules

Article excerpt

The first bill that newly elected Minnesota state Rep. Samantha Vang was able to get to a committee vote involves something personal: Voting.

The DFLer from Brooklyn Center is one of four newly elected Hmong-American legislators, and she recently told the House Subcommittee on Elections that there are many members of her community that need help marking their ballots, both because of language barriers and because they have disabilities that make it more difficult to vote.

The problem: current state law says that no one can help more than three voters fill in their ballots. Vang said the restriction has a disproportionate impact on communities with English proficiency challenges, including Minnesota’s Hmong-American community. She, for example, couldn’t bring her parents and grandparents to the polls and legally help all of them vote.

The current statute allows people who do not speak English or who have a disability to vote in one of two ways: they can ask an election judges to mark their ballots with their preference; or they can bring someone to help them mark their ballots.

There are now limits on a voter’s choice of a helper: It can’t be an agent of their employer; it can’t be an agent of a union; it can’t be a candidate for office on the same ballot; and it can’t be someone who has already helped at least three other voters. Vang’s bill, House File 94, would remove the last restriction only.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon told the committee that he thinks the current provision limiting the number of voters who can be helped by someone could put Minnesota on the losing side of any legal challenge under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2017, a case out of Texas found that a requirement that interpreters who helped voters fill out ballots must be registered voters within the same county was overly burdensome. …

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