Minnesota Needs its Own Voting Rights Act

Minnesota Voting Rights Act (MNVRA)

As Black voters face the greatest assault on voting rights since Jim Crow, Minnesota has an opportunity in 2024 to continue is progress in advancing the freedom to vote and join the growing list of states protecting voters against unequal access to the ballot.

State lawmakers can do so by passing the Minnesota Voting Rights Act (the “MNVRA” or HF 3527 / SF 3994). This legislation builds upon the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and protections recently passed in New York and Connecticut, as well as previous efforts in California, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia.

On April 8, 2024, the Minnesota House passed the Elections Omnibus Bill (HF 4772), including the Minnesota Voting Rights Act (MNVRA) which takes critical steps to protect the cornerstones of democracy — just in time for Minnesota to lead as other states move backward and Congress struggles to move forward on voting rights. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Since 2021, at least 42 restrictive voting laws have been passed in 21 states. Dozens of states are considering additional anti-voter legislation this year. As states build barriers to the ballot box, Congress still struggles to find the will to pass legislation to restore key protections and enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now, we need states to lead by example to protect our right to vote. 

LDF MNVRA Testimony

Minnesota Voters Are At Risk of Losing Critical Protections Against Racial Discrimination in Voting

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently held that voters and organizations that represent them can no longer bring lawsuits directly under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). This opinion is binding on seven states – including Minnesota – and exposes Black voters and other voters of color in Minnesota to the threat of unbridled racial discrimination in voting.

The Eighth Circuit’s opinion is deeply alarming because it limits the ability of individuals and civil rights groups from using the federal Voting Rights Act to combat racial discrimination in voting. This opinion flies in the face of six decades of decisions in hundreds of cases under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Although Minnesota voters may still be able to challenge Section 2 violations under a different federal statute, there is limited precedent addressing this alternative approach, and the recent ruling leaves Minnesota voters vulnerable to further erosion of their rights.

The MNVRA will codify the protections offered by the federal Voting Rights Act into Minnesota state law, and streamline them to make solving discrimination more efficient for both voters and local governments. The MNVRA will restore and strengthen the tools that were stripped by the Eighth Circuit.

The MNVRA Will Protect Voters of Color and Strengthen Minnesota's Democracy

Key Elements of the MNVRA

Prohibition Against Voter Suppression

Confronting voter suppression due to barriers that deny voting opportunities to voters of color.

Prohibition Against Voter Dilution

Confronting 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 clear 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.

More on Voting Rights

Voting Rights

State VRAS can provide key protections to their constituents that prevent and guard against discriminatory voting practices and policies. Learn more about LDF’s work to advance state VRAs

LDF Original Content

A tandem approach of restoring and expanding federal voting rights legislation along with passing individual state VRAs is essential for providing the most robust voting protections for all voters.

LDF Original Content

How States with discriminatory maps have shirked their responsibilities to their constituents, paving the way for the passage of oppressive legislation.

LDF's Report on the 2020 Election

Democracy Defended

2020 saw a dramatic increase in attempts to suppress the vote of Black, Latinx, and other minority-community voters. Democracy Defended captures and analyzes LDF’s work during the 2020 election season, including our Prepared to Vote and Voting Rights Defender initiatives. It provides documentation of barriers faced by Black voters in PTV/VRD focus states and solutions for policy makers, election administrators, and community members to implement to ensure fair access to the vote in future elections.

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