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MAT Staff October 29, 2020

Notice: Voter Assistance Law Update

Following a decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court on Oct. 28, 2020, the rules related to voter assistance have again changed. In summary, the new rule is this: Election judges should allow a voter to receive help in marking his or her ballot from any person the voter chooses, but the helper cannot be the voter’s employer, and agent or employee of the voter’s employer, or an officer or agent of the voter’s labor union. There is no limit on the number of voters a person may assist in marking a ballot. However, a person may help only up to three people in returning an absentee ballot.

In the recent case, DSCC v. Republican Party of Minnesota, A20-1017 (Minn. Oct. 28, 2020), the Minnesota Supreme Court considered whether two Minnesota statutes, Minn. Stat. § 204C.15, subd. 1, and 203B.08, subd. 1, were valid based on alleged inconsistencies with Federal election laws. The two statutes at issue limit the number of voters an individual may assist in voting. In August 2020, a Minnesota District Court Judge issued a temporary injunction prohibiting enforcement of those two Minnesota laws because the Judge believed the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their cases.

One of the statutes, Minn. Stat. § 204C.15, subd. 1, says in relevant part, “The person who assists the voter shall, unaccompanied by an election judge, retire with that voter to a booth and mark the ballot as directed by the voter. No person who assists another voter as provided in the preceding sentence shall mark the ballots of more than three voters at one election.” This statute indicates that an individual, other than an election judge, may help up to three people in marking their ballots during an election. Election judges were and continue to be allowed to assist voters in marking their ballots upon the voter’s request.

The Minnesota Supreme Court held this statute is probably inconsistent with Federal election law and should not be enforced. Therefore, election judges must allow all voters to receive help in marking their ballot from any person other than the voter’s employer, an agent of the employer, or an agent of the voter’s labor union.

The second statute, Minn. Stat. § 203B.08, subd. 1, says in relevant part, “An agent may deliver or mail the return envelopes of not more than three voters in any election.” This statute allowed an individual to help up to three people in marking or returning their absentee ballots in an election.

The Minnesota Supreme Court held this statute is probably consistent with Federal election law and should be enforced. The Supreme Court vacated the temporary injunction on this part, so election judges should enforce the prohibitions of Minn. Stat. § 203B.08, subd. 1. A person may assist up to three people in returning absentee ballots.

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