Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund Sues State of Minnesota to Remove Barriers to Absentee Voting in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

ST. PAUL, MN – Today, the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund and three of its members, supported by the National Redistricting Foundation, filed a lawsuit in the Ramsey County District Court to protect the rights of older Minnesota voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were joined by one other individual plaintiff.

The plaintiffs are seeking to protect the rights of self-quarantining voters who cannot obtain a witness signature on their mail-in ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those whose ballot may not arrive at the County Elections offices by Election Day through no fault of their own. Three of the individual plaintiffs have serious health conditions which put them at risk from the coronavirus and intend to vote by mail.

The lawsuit alleges 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. Because the state requires each absentee voter to secure a witness signature on their ballot, certain eligible voters who live alone or without an adult U.S. citizen in the household will be 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.

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, absentee voting across the country has surged and the Minnesota Secretary of State is working to ensure that 50-60% of all ballots are cast before Election Day. However, the U.S. Postal Service is experiencing severe financial difficulties due to the outbreak and there is no guarantee that absentee ballots will be delivered by Election Day, despite voters’ best efforts to comply with the deadline. 

“There are more than three million seniors registered to vote in Minnesota. The state is asking them to take unnecessary risks with their health if they want to cast a ballot that will be counted,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the national Alliance for Retired Americans. “The Alliance for Retired Americans is committed to ensuring that all older Americans nationwide can exercise their right to vote, especially during this unprecedented public health crisis.” 

“I have a constitutional right to vote and have my vote counted,” said Teresa Maples, of Red Wing, a member of the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans and a registered voter in Goodhue County. “I am 66 and have several serious health conditions. I am particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus and at risk of contracting COVID-19. There is no question that I will be unable to vote in person because I am strictly following the social distancing and self-isolation guidelines. Because I live alone and cannot safely obtain a witness signature, my vote may never be counted.”

“The right to vote is sacred and older Americans take this civic responsibility very seriously,” said Michael Madden, President of the Minnesota Alliance Educational Fund and a registered voter in Chisago County. “The state’s absentee ballot requirements put us in an impossible position of choosing to protect our health or casting a ballot that we are certain will count.”

In addition to Ms. Maples, the plaintiffs include Minnesota Alliance members Gary Severson of Chaska, Minnesota and Mary Samson of Newport, Minnesota.

The lawsuit court filing 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, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, in addition to Minnesota this year.

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The Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund is a state affiliate of the national Alliance for Retired Americans and has more than 84,000 members statewide.

Contact: Lisa Cutler, lcutler@retiredamericans.org

 

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