Minnesota drops mail-in voting witness requirement ahead of November election

The step — which follows a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and a representative of the NAACP — eliminates the state’s requirement that forced voters to get a notary or witness to sign their ballot envelope.
In a ruling approving the agreement, Ramsey County District Judge Sara Grewing on Monday explained “it is reasonable to conclude that the witness requirement impermissibly and irrationally denies the fundamental right to those individuals while there is still ongoing community transmission of COVID-19.”
Grewing, however, denied a separate request that would have required mail-in ballots to be sent to all registered voters in the state automatically.
“As distinguished from the witness requirement, it is difficult to imagine the application process being any easier than as currently provided for in state law,” the court order said.
“While it is undoubtedly more convenient for Plaintiffs’ members to receive a ballot in the mail without asking for one, the Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that the statute represents an unconstitutional burden on their right to vote.”
The witness requirement agreement marks just the latest example of expanding mail-in voting preparations as states across the country plan for November’s presidential election while still grappling with the coronavirus. As a result of the ongoing pandemic, voting by mail is becoming an increasingly popular option since many voters may prefer not to wait in long lines at polling stations.
Theresa Lee, an ACLU staff attorney, said Monday that the court’s ruling amounted to “a victory for Minnesotans who can’t risk exposure to COVID-19 in order to secure a signature on a ballot.”
“This agreement is a sensible solution that will help protect Minnesotans’ health and their right to vote.”
That message was echoed by NAACP Minnesota-Dakotas Area State Conference President William Jordan Jr., who assessed that the decision is “a step in the right direction that places voters and constituents at the center of elections.”
Still, Monday’s ruling also comes as President Donald Trump has begun laying the groundwork for casting doubt and suspicion on election results if counting mail-in ballots ultimately delays the declaration of a winner.
“I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen,” Trump said last week at a news conference, during which he also called vote-by-mail a “disaster” and argued people should have to cast their votes in person.
“Mail-in ballots will lead to the greatest fraud,” he said, without evidence.
In reality, there is no evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud. While rare instances of voter fraud from mail-in ballots do occur, it is nowhere near a widespread problem in the US election system.