Minnesota Democrats Introduce State Level Voting Rights Act

Washington, D.C. — Minnesota Democrats are hoping to make the Gopher State the latest to adopt a state-level Voting Rights Act.

The Minnesota Voting Rights Act (MNVRA), introduced in February, would specifically aim to prevent voter suppression and vote dilution. 

The bill would prevent any action that results in, or is likely to result in, a disparity in voter participation, voting opportunities or the ability to participate in the political process between a protected class and other individuals. The MNVRA would also prohibit actions that impair “the equal opportunity or ability of members of a protected class to nominate or elect candidates of their choice as a result of diluting the vote of members of that protected class.”

Acknowledging the past, the bill text notes “a history in Minnesota, as in the United States overall, of public and private discrimination against individuals who are members of racial, color, or language minority groups” that includes qualifications or “other prerequisites” to voting.

The legislation spells out the factors for determining violations of the MNVRA, along with how the alleged violations would be remedied. 

The bill specifically provides a private right of action — which would allow private litigants, and not just the state attorney general — to challenge violations of the MNVRA. Republicans have sought to attack a private right of action on the national level, arguing that it does not exist under the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act or Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). If no private right of action were to exist under the federal laws, only the U.S. attorney general would be able to file lawsuits over alleged violations.

Last November, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that private litigants, including nonprofit groups and voters, could no longer bring lawsuits under Section 2 of the VRA, a catastrophic decision that ripped away the right for private parties in seven states, including Minnesota.

Seven states have enacted state-level voting rights acts. Those include New York, which enacted its version in June 2022. Already, two lawsuits have been filed under the act by private litigants. State level voting rights acts can be a crucial tool to make up for areas of the federal VRA that have been eroded by the U.S. Supreme Court, including provisions pertaining to preclearance and vote dilution of minority voters.

The MNVRA was introduced in the state House on Feb. 12, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 20. If the bill passes both chambers and is signed into law, it would go into effect the day after its enactment. 

Read the bill here.

Track the status of the bill in the House here 

Track the status of the bill in the Senate here.