Ellison and Simon “Reach Agreement to Expand Access to Voting”

Minnesota’s Democrat Attorney General and Secretary of State, Keith Ellison and Steve Simon, respectively, have reached an “agreement to expand access to voting.”

Minnesota’s Democrat Attorney General and Secretary of State, Keith Ellison and Steve Simon, respectively, have reached an “agreement to expand access to voting.”

Minnesota Statute 204C.15 disallows a person providing assistance to a voter from marking more than three ballots, in an effort to restrict third party ballot harvesting and the industrialization of vote gathering. The statute reads:

“A voter who claims a need for assistance because of inability to read English or physical inability to mark a ballot may obtain the aid of two election judges who are members of different major political parties. The election judges shall mark the ballots as directed by the voter and in as secret a manner as circumstances permit. A voter in need of assistance may alternatively obtain the assistance of any individual the voter chooses… No person who assists another voter as provided in the preceding sentence shall mark the ballots of more than three voters at one election.”

In a consent decree, filed in Ramsey County District Court, Simon—represented by Ellison—unilaterally found that the three person limit is “preempted by the federal Voting Rights Act.” 

The other part of Minnesota’s law that Simon and Ellison have decided is invalid is the restriction on a political candidate aiding in such voting, based on the case of Dai Thao, a Saint Paul City Council Member, who helped an elderly Hmong voter and faced charges in 2017. 

Ellison’s office says that only Minnesota and Arkansas continue to have such rules. It is unlikely this move by Ellison and Simon will be significantly challenged, as it appears there is a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals case that invalidated a similar law in Texas. It also does not appear that these changes would allow third-party ballot harvesting of absentee ballots, which is a change that would draw immense ire from conservatives in the state. 

Instead, a separate suit brought by a liberal group is now advocating to have Minnesota’s ballot-harvesting restrictions removed, while another suit seeks to move Minnesota’s absentee voting system into a de-facto mail-in balloting system. 

Meanwhile, Simon has quite a bit of election funding to throw around heading into 2020, after both Minnesota Republicans and Democrats passed a relatively open-ended election funding bill.