State Rep. Samantha Vang Pushes Voting Rights Bill
Representative Samantha Vang of Brooklyn Center is brand new to the job, but is already pushing a voting rights bill through the Minnesota Legislature.
Vang says people with language barriers or disabilities often need help from someone else to fill out their ballots. But Minnesota law dictates that any one person can help a maximum of three other people vote.
Vang says that law discriminates against immigrants with language barriers and people with disabilities. She authored a bill to remove that restriction from state law. Vang says as it stands, the law is likely a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act.
“A complaint was filed directly to the Secretary of State, saying that this is a potential lawsuit,” said Vang.
Vang cites a federal appellate court decision in Texas. That case struck down a law mandating interpreters be registered to vote in the same county as voters they helped. The judges wrote that limiting voters’ choice of who helps them at the polls “impermissibly narrows” the rights laid out in the Voting Rights Act.
Both Vang and Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon argue that a similar decision would likely result, should the current law be challenged.
Bill Headed to House Floor
On Tuesday, the bill HF94, passed its final House committee stop on the way to the House floor. Republicans proposed two amendments that would have weakened the bill; One required that helpers be registered Minnesota voters. The other mandated identifying helpers.
Vang, joined by Simon, pointed out that the first amendment could itself violate the Voting Rights Act. Neither amendment passed.
The bill now moves to the House floor where Vang is optimistic it will pass. However, it also needs to get through the Senate. There, Vang says it will likely face a tougher fight for approval.