June 17, 2020
Judge Signs Consent Decree: Removes Barriers to Absentee Voting for Minnesota’s August Primary as a Result of Retirees’ Lawsuit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ST. PAUL, MN – Today Minnesota County District Court Judge Sara Gerwig signed the consent decree between the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund and the Secretary of State of Minnesota. The agreement protects the rights of older voters and all Minnesotans who vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suit was filed by the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund and three of its members. It is supported by the National Redistricting Foundation and includes one other individual plaintiff.
The Secretary of State agreed to the two demands by the Minnesota Alliance and its members for the August 11, 2020 primary:
- All mail ballots from registered voters will be accepted without requiring that a witness sign them; and
- Ballots received within two days after Election Day will be accepted, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
The consent decree notes that the two day extension is merely a function of when the ballots need to be counted for the canvass; in a general election, this time period would be much longer.
“All voters should be able to vote by mail and know that their ballot will be counted,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the national Alliance for Retired Americans. “We thank the court and the Minnesota Secretary State for recognizing that these requirements needed to be waived. This is a victory for all voters, but especially for those who are most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic and who need to vote by mail to protect their health.”
“I’m grateful that the Secretary of State has agreed that I have a constitutional right to vote without putting my health at risk,” said Teresa Maples of Red Wing, a plaintiff, a member of the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans and a registered voter in Goodhue County. “At 66 years old I live with several serious health conditions which put me at risk of contracting COVID-19, and there was no way I could have voted in person. Knowing I can vote by mail without having to find someone to witness my ballot or worry about the post office delivering my ballot by election day gives me less anxiety during these stressful times.”
“Seniors take the right to vote and their civic responsibilities very seriously,” said Michael Madden, President of the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans and a registered voter in Chisago County. “There are 700,000 seniors registered to vote in Minnesota. The settlement is a victory for them and every Minnesotan who votes by mail in August.”
In addition to Ms. Maples, the plaintiffs include Minnesota Alliance members Gary Severson of Chaska, Minnesota and Mary Samson of Newport, Minnesota.
The consent decree can be found here.
The Alliance for Retired Americans, working with its state chapters, has filed lawsuits to protect vote by mail and absentee voters in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, in addition to Minnesota this year.
Background: The lawsuit alleged that due to the severe health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many Minnesota voters will be forced to vote by mail-in absentee ballot. The state’s requirement that each absentee voter secure a witness signature on their ballot means that certain eligible voters who live alone or without an adult U.S. citizen in the household would have been unable to cast their vote. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that a second deadly wave of infections is likely to occur in the fall and people most at risk from COVID-19 will likely need to continue to self-isolate and practice social distancing.
To discuss the settlement with a plaintiff or Mr. Fiesta, please contact Lisa Cutler at firstname.lastname@example.org