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Another Day, Another Conservative Lawsuit Claiming Face Mask Mandates Risk Killing Freedom

— August 5, 2020

This time, members of the Minnesota Voters Alliance say Gov. Tim Walz’s mask mandate–coupled with a 1963 law banning masks at polling places–could make them too afraid to cast a ballot.

Conservative voters are suing Minnesota, claiming that state Gov. Tim Walz is illegally forcing people to wear face masks.

The Star Tribune reports that the lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court by members of the Minnesota Voting Alliance.

That organization, adds the Star Tribune, has received backing from Republican lawmakers. Altogether, they say Walz’s mask policy is unconstitutional, insofar as it will require Minnesota voters to wear face masks at polling places.

The lawsuit cites a 1963 state law, which makes it illegal for anyone to wear a mask while voting. However, that same law provides an exception for masks worn as part of medical treatment. Regardless, conservatives say there is a fundamental and irreconcilable discord between Walz’s order and existing state law.

“That’s a conflict and I don’t know what to do on primary day,” said Kim Crockett, a plaintiff in the complaint.

Crockett, along with other members of the Minnesota Voting Alliance, want a federal court to order a temporary injunction against Walz’s order—preferably in time for next week’s primary.

However, Minnesota lawmakers and state-level officials—including Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon—have said that nobody will be prevented from voting for not wearing a face mask. Speaking to the Star Tribune, Simon said that election workers will encourage voters to wear face masks, and will hand them out to anyone who does not already have one.

While Simon said that counties and cities can decide for themselves whether to cite people who do not comply with Walz’s mask mandate, Minnesota will not pull anyone away from the polls.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz at his swearing-in ceremony in 2019. Image via Flickr/user:Lorie Shaull. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“No one should stand in their way of voting,” Simon said. “It’s a constitutional right. You can’t tie a constitutional right to the wearing of a mask.”

Erick Kaardal, an attorney for the Voters Alliance, later said that Simon’s comments are simply a distraction. He referred to the Star Tribune to one of Simon’s directives: that voters be encouraged to wear a mask, and if they refuse without providing a valid medical excuse, to be told their names will recorded and reported to authorities.

Kaardal said the mask mandate is frightening Minnesotans, suggesting that the 1963 law is at the forefront of voters’ minds.

“With the state of Minnesota both criminalizing wearing a mask and not wearing a mask, people are fearful of political participation in public spaces,” he said, claiming that Walz’s neglect of older statutes implies some degree of irresponsibility.

“With the specter of threatened prosecution hanging over those who show up barefaced at polls on primary Election Day, upstanding voters are faced only with the option of breaking another, well-established state law,” Kaardal said.

The Minnesota Voting Alliance, adds the Star Tribune, has a long history of using the courts to effect, or attempt to effect, changes to established voting procedure. In 2018, the organization challenged a state law preventing people from wearing political apparel while voting—an argument eventually accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Later, the Alliance tried—and failed—to sue Simon in a bid to make more voter data public.

Kaardal, notes Minnesota Public Radio, is involved in other lawsuits against Walz’s mask order. He has likened mask mandates to tyranny, seemingly suggesting that only by overturning them can Minnesotans truly be free.

“We’re in a monarchy that may never end,” Kaardal said of Gov. Walz’s mask order, which was enacted via executive order. “And that’s very, very sad.”


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