Minnesota voters must still don face coverings at the polls on Election Day after a federal judge refused to block Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency mask mandate aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz, in a 35-page opinion issued Friday, wrote that a lawsuit brought by the Minnesota Voters Alliance and five conservative political activists had “no chance of success” in its claim that Walz’s order violates the First Amendment.
“There is no question that Minnesota has the constitutional authority to enact measures to protect the health and safety of its citizens,” Schiltz wrote.
The lawsuit is one of more than a dozen court challenges to Walz’s emergency orders amid the pandemic. Earlier in the week, another federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis, who argued that Walz’s orders infringed on his ability to effectively travel and campaign. Lewis vowed to appeal.
Attorneys for the Minnesota Voters Alliance also claimed that Walz’s mask order would put Minnesotans at risk of violating a 1920s-era statute that forbids disguises in public places. The law was enacted over concerns of the Ku Klux Klan’s rise. Schiltz wrote that siding with that argument could lead to “absurd results” such as first responders being barred from wearing surgical masks while tending to injured people on public roads.