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SENATE PASSES ELECTIONS OMNIBUS BILL, WHICH INCLUDES THE MINNESOTA STATE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

St Paul, Minnesota— Today, the Minnesota Senate passed the Elections Omnibus Bill (SF 4729), including the Minnesota Voting Rights Act (MNVRA), which takes critical steps to codify the protections offered by the federal Voting Rights Act into state law to ensure ballot access and protect voters from disenfranchisement. Codifying these rights through the MNVRA will help to protect voting rights and access, especially in communities of color and other groups whose voting rights have been under attack for decades. The MNVRA will ensure that Minnesota voters always have rights under state law to challenge barriers to effective community participation.

“This couldn't come at a more urgent time, as our country's great project of multiracial democracy is being tested in ways large and small. Federal court decisions have chipped away at the Voting Rights Act and other landmark legislation intended to create equal opportunity in our democracy, economy, and society. A powerful conservative legal movement has stacked the courts with ideological judges who deliver decision after decision undermining racial equity in public schools, affirmative action in higher education, and reproductive rights, to name a few,” said lead authors Senator Bobby Joe Champion and Representative Emma Greenman, in an opinion piece published in the Star Tribune. “By passing the Minnesota Voting Rights Act, we are reaffirming our commitment to the promise of a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

In 1965, Congress passed the Federal Voting Rights Act, a pivotal moment in ensuring voting rights for all citizens and dismantling discriminatory practices. However, in recent years, federal court rulings have eroded these protections, hindering the ability of individuals and civil rights advocates to combat voter discrimination. Last November, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals further undermined these efforts by limiting challenges under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This decision, affecting seven states, including Minnesota, threatens the democratic foundation of our nation.

"State protections like the MNVRA are crucial to safeguard against nationwide efforts to weaken voter protections, especially in marginalized communities. The legislation will also help Minnesota thwart efforts to undermine free and fair elections. With the passage of the MNVRA, Minnesota has taken a crucial step towards securing the bedrock principles of democracy," said Lilly Sasse, Campaign Director of We Choose Us. "This legislation ensures that every Minnesotan, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, can exercise their constitutional right to vote without impediment or discrimination."

“As Black voters face the greatest assault on voting rights since Jim Crow, Minnesota is embracing the opportunity to build on its progress in advancing the freedom to vote and join the growing list of states protecting voters against unequal access to the ballot,” said Michael Pernick, Voting Rights Attorney of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The Star Tribune and Mankato Free Press editorialized in support of the Minnesota Voting Rights Act, making the case that this will ensure all Minnesotans have a say in our democracy, no matter where they live, what they look like, or who they vote for. Six states have already enacted similar voting rights acts, and it is time for Minnesota to join them in supporting democracy.

The Minnesota Voting Rights Act’s provisions include:

• Prohibition Against Voter Suppression: tackling voter suppression due to barriers that deny voting opportunities to voters of color.

• Prohibition Against Vote Dilution: tackling unfair districts or at-large elections that weaken or drown out the voices of black voters and other voters of color.

• Efficient and Clear Rules: adopting precise and efficient standards to make cases more predictable, efficient, and effective.

• Notice and Safe Harbor: requiring good-faith negotiation before lawsuits to fix voting discrimination as efficiently and inexpensively as possible for all parties.

• Enshrining the “Democracy Canon”: instructing state judges to interpret election laws in a pro-voter way whenever reasonably possible.

The bill now heads on to Conference Committee and will be re-voted on in both chambers before it is signed into law.

 

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