Minnesota's election system should feel no direct impact from Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act, state elections officials said.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Ramsey County Elections Director Joe Mansky said the affected sections of the Voting Rights Act applied primarily to southern states with a history of racial discrimination in elections. Minnesota has never been on that list of so-called "covered jurisdictions."
The court’s conservative majority, in a 5-4 decision, invalidated a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that allows federal oversight of voting changes in those parts of the country. The law has been used to by the Obama Administration to block or change photo ID requirements in southern states. The court said Congress should write a new law redefining which states should be covered.
“We traditionally follow this issue closely,” Mansky said. “We don’t want to become a ‘covered jurisdiction.’ He said the best way to do that is to make sure the elections process is open to all.
Ritchie said the split decision is unfortunate, and noted that the law itself sailed through a reauthorization vote and signing by then-President George W. Bush in 2006.
"This was clearly a deep partisan split," Ritchie said of the court's ruling. "Most people would like to see something other than deeply divided partisan decisions on elections."
An unanswered question in the decision, Mansky said, concerns the status of photo ID in southern states. Again, that would not affect Minnesota, because voters rejected a proposed photo ID requirement in the November general election.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he had not studied the decision but considers it a "a terrible backtracking on what has been established for 50 years."
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