ACLU-MN sues state over voter assistance laws

The ACLU-MN on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Minnesota over voter assistance law.

The lawsuit, which was filed against the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office, says state law forbidding people from helping more than three others vote and preventing certain others, such as candidates, from helping people vote is disenfranchising people with disabilities and language barriers.

The lawsuit is similar to one filed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month.

Lawsuit argues Minnesota law discriminates against disabled and non English-speaking voters

According to the ACLU’s lawsuit, Dai Thao, whom the lawsuit lists as a plaintiff, was running for office when a Hmong woman with a visual impairment asked him to help her vote. The woman was his neighbor and he didn’t know it was against state law for a candidate to help someone cast a ballot, so he helped her. He was later charged but found not guilty on all counts.

"Voting is a fundamental right in our democracy, and it’s disgraceful that state law makes it more difficult to vote for people who have a disability, cannot read or write, or face language barriers," ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney said. "Our state law limiting the help these voters can access blatantly violates the state and U.S. Constitutions and the federal Voting Rights Act."

The ACLU says the law has a disproportionate impact on refugee communities, including Hmong people. The Twin Cities has the nation’s largest Hmong population, and nationally, only 56% of Hmong adults are English-proficient.

The ACLU also said nearly 11% of Minnesotans have a disability, including more than 78,000 voting age Minnesotans with vision difficulties, according to the 2017 American Community Survey.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee told KSTP they hope to have the lawsuit resolved ahead of the upcoming elections.