Four Hmong-Americans are challenging Minnesota's restrictions on who may assist voters in casting their ballots.
It is the second lawsuit this year claiming state law discriminates against disabled and non-English-speaking voters who need the help of others when they vote. Three weeks ago the Democratic Party's House and Senate campaign committees brought a similar claim. Both were filed in state court in St. Paul.
The claims are part of a surge in varied litigation by progressive groups and Democratic operatives seeking to win advances in voting rights via the courts in advance of Election Day. Most suits are being filed in presidential or congressional battleground states where the legislatures are not inclined to ease access to the ballot box.
South Dakota lawmakers look like they won't be doing anything this year to help American Indians overcome the structural and socioeconomic barriers that have long contributed to their historically low participation in elections.
Last week, the state House rejected a plan to allow Native Americans to use tribal identification cards as documentation when registering to vote. The Republicans in charge in Pierre cited concern that information on the IDs could not be independently verified by the secretary of state's office and could lead to fraud, since the cards are not state-issued and often do not include a mailing address.
The Democrats who made the proposal said it would boost civic engagement in tribal communities, which have some of the most anemic turnout in the state. They also noted tribal IDs are used in dealings with the federal government, including at airport security checkpoints.
South Dakota's new regulation of people who circulate petitions for ballot initiatives is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.
The decision, if it withstands a potential appeal, would be a boon for advocates of direct democracy, which relies on small armies of people gathering signatures to put proposed changes to state laws before the entire electorate. Twenty-six states allow such citizen-led ballot measures.
A law signed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem last year requires petition circulators to register with the secretary of state and provide personal information including home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. But those "extensive and burdensome" disclosure requirements discriminate against those advocating for ballot measures in violation of the First Amendment because the same rules didn't apply to people actively opposing the measures, U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann ruled last week.
A ruling is expected this month on the constitutionality of South Dakota's new prohibition on out-of-state contributions to referendum campaigns.
Federal Judge Charles Kornmann says he'll rule before the new campaign finance limit takes effect this summer, and maybe as soon as this week. At a hearing last week, the Brookings Radio network reports, he expressed broad concerns with the measure including that "this thing prohibits contributions in the form of volunteers from out of state."
The curbs on out-of-state donations were approved by 56 percent of South Dakotans in November. The judge is ruling on two lawsuits alleging the new rules violate the First Amendment.