MINNEAPOLIS — Registered voters in Minnesota will receive an absentee ballot request form in the mail as a growing number of states decide to send out applications automatically to people on their voter rolls amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon agreed to the change Thursday after he was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Minnesota, and Faegre Drinker LLP on behalf of the NAACP and a handful of individual voters.
“By helping secure greater access to voting, this agreement represents a step toward racial justice,” said ACLU of Minnesota staff attorney David McKinney in a statement. “It makes it much easier for people who are at greater risk from COVID, including people of color, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions, to vote early and to vote without having to go to a polling place. That also leaves the polls free on Election Day for those who must vote in person, protecting the vote and the health of all Minnesotans.”
As part of the deal, Minnesota will mail absentee ballot request forms at least 40 days before Nov. 3 to all registered voters who are yet to ask for one. The state, which started early in-person voting on Friday, had earlier relaxed its application witness requirements because of the same lawsuit.
Minnesota now joins states such as Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin in mailing out the request forms unsolicited. That’s different from California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, which are sending out actual ballots.
But with Election Day less than two months away, many states are still caught in legal quagmires as the political fight over voter access and voting by mail rages on.
A Michigan state appeals court on Wednesday found Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had the “inherent” authority to mail registered voters absentee ballot request forms when she did so in May. Meanwhile, the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked Harris County, which takes in Houston, from sending out applications to all voters. Voters over the age of 65 have already received forms, while younger voters must provide the state with a reason other than the COVID-19 outbreak if they want to cast their ballot by mail.
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