Jul 30, 2020
AARP and AARP Foundation Urge Minnesota Court to Remove Voting Barriers and Protect Voters’ Health

ST. PAUL, Minn. — AARP and AARP Foundation are urging a Minnesota District Court in Ramsey County (St. Paul) to send absentee ballots to all registered voters and waive a state requirement that voters must have a witness, or notary, sign their ballot envelope. In an amicus brief filed today in the case NAACP Minnesota-Dakotas Area State Conference v. Simon, the organizations note that voters should not have to choose between risking their health and casting a ballot.

“AARP is alarmed by the state’s failure to ease absentee voting rules during the pandemic and we will continue to fight to ensure Minnesota voters age 50 and up can vote safely in November,” said AARP Minnesota State Director Will Phillips. “Not enforcing the witness requirement and sending absentee ballots to registered voters are practical steps to ensure the safety of all Minnesotans. No one should have to choose between risking their health — possibly their life — and casting their vote.”

“Minnesotans must have an opportunity to vote safely –whether they need to vote by absentee ballot or in-person,” said William Alvarado Rivera, Senior Vice President for Litigation at AARP Foundation. “Failing to remove barriers to absentee voting will lead to crowding at the polls and greater dangers for older voters, volunteer poll workers and election judges.”

According to the brief:

“It is undisputed that the consequences for those who become infected with COVID-19, especially those with serious underlying medical conditions, are severe, even life threatening. Indeed, that is the premise of the consent decree wherein Secretary of State Simon agreed not to enforce the ‘Witness Requirement’ and to ease rules governing the submission of ballots for the August primary. The available evidence indicates that the public health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic also will be great come November, if not worse. It follows that similar steps are required-consistent with the needs of the electorate and ‘the state’s interest in public health and safety’ …. For the general election, as for the primary, voters must not be made to choose between risking their health — possibly their life — and casting a ballot.

“Denying Minnesotans a realistic chance to vote safely by absentee ballot, and to vote safely in-person for those who need to do so, would cheat them of the ‘fundamental right’ to vote protected by the State Constitution…. This would be an especially pernicious result, given that older Minnesotans are the State’s most consistent and enthusiastic voters …. For these reasons, amici respectfully urge this Court to set aside the Witness Requirement and to direct defendant Simon to deliver absentee ballots to all eligible voters, as proposed by plaintiffs….”

Read the full amicus brief here.

About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

About AARP Foundation
AARP Foundation works to end senior poverty by helping vulnerable older adults build economic opportunity and social connectedness. As AARP’s charitable affiliate, we serve AARP members and nonmembers alike. Bolstered by vigorous legal advocacy, we spark bold, innovative solutions that foster resilience, strengthen communities and restore hope. To learn more, visit http://www.aarpfoundation.org or follow @AARPFoundation on social media.

For further information: Carla Zbacnik, AARP Minnesota, czbacnik@aarp.org, 651-202-6009 Colby Nelson, AARP External Relations, cnelson@aarp.org, 202-706-8416