CLC and Partners Secure Safe Absentee Voting for Minnesota Primary Amid Pandemic

A voter filling out an absentee ballot
A voter fills out an absentee ballot. Photo by Casey Atkins/Campaign Legal Center

Minnesota has agreed to allow voters to cast absentee ballots in the state’s August 11 primary without a witness present, making it easier for them to participate in the primary while protecting themselves from COVID-19.  

Under an agreement reached with the state , Minnesota’s Secretary of State will ensure absentee ballots will count in the August primary regardless of whether they include a witness signature. The Secretary also agreed to educate the public, including by updating the absentee voting materials about this temporary change.

Portrait of Vivian Latimer Tanniehill
Vivian Latimer Tanniehill, a plaintiff in the case, LWVMN v. Simon.

The case, LWVMN v. Simon, was filed on May 19, seeking to suspend Minnesota’s witness requirement for absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic and permanently loosen restrictions on who can serve as a ballot witness. Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Lathrop GPM are representing the League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund and an individual voter, Vivian Latimer Tanniehill, in the case.

Minnesota law ordinarily requires absentee voters to obtain the signature of a witness, who must be a registered Minnesota voter, a notary, or another official authorized to give oaths.

Minnesota’s witness requirement puts the state in rare company. Only a small minority of states – 12 in total – require a witness or notary as part of the ordinary process for casting an absentee ballot. Two of the other 11 – Virginia and Rhode Island – have voluntarily waived or modified their witness requirements for 2020 given the extraordinary circumstances around COVID-19.

While this agreement will suspend the witness requirement for the August 2020 primary, the litigation is not over. CLC continues to fight for a court order blocking enforcement of the witness requirement for the November 2020 election and striking down Minnesota’s restrictive rules about who can serve as a ballot witness in future elections.

Corey handles media relations for the CLC voting rights and redistricting teams and creates online content. Follow @cgfromdc on Twitter