Fight Erupts Over Minnesota State Law That Criminalizes Political Speech

A fight has been launched by the Liberty Justice Center and the Upper Midwest Law Center over a Minnesota law that now “criminalizes core political speech.”

A report from the LJC explains Gov. Tim Walz, a leftist in Minnesota’s politics, a few months ago signed into law a plan from the legislature that “includes a provision allowing the state to prosecute anyone who expresses disfavored opinions about Minnesota’s voting laws within 60 days of an election.”

The lawsuit charges that that violates Minnesotans’ free speech rights by outlawing speech about undecided legal questions, “such as whether the state’s constitution allows felons the right to vote before their sentences have ended, rather than afterwards.”

The lead plaintiff is the Minnesota Voters Alliance, a nonpartisan group that aims to boost public awareness of election issues in the state.

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The case in federal court in Minnesota charges that the lawmakers simply decided to ignore the requirements of the U.S. Constitution when they adopted their plan to pursue the “criminalization of political discussion about elections.”

The complaint seeks the court’s declaration that the state’s “Speech Code” violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution, as well as an injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing its speech ode.

“There is no justification for this prior restrain on speech,” the complaint charges. “The Speech Code is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest, and the Speech Code is not actually necessary to address the speculative evil it supposedly targets.”

Further, it “imposes an objectively reasonable chill on the speech of any person.”

It cites as an example the political statement that, “Felons still serving their sentences do not have a right to vote in Minnesota.”

That’s supported by the “plain reading of Article VII, section I, of the Minnesota Constitution” as well as state supreme court precedent, the filing explains.

“However, a new Minnesota law … threatens anyone who utters such a phrase, or other like phrases, with criminal and civil penalties.”

It bans any “materially false” comment “within 60 days of an election.”

Topics covered include details about an election and the qualifications for or restrictions on voter eligibility.

Compounding the problem, lawmakers said anyone to claims an “injury” from any such speech can “enforce” the ban.

“Those potential plaintiffs in such a lawsuit – who could be any Minnesotan claiming supposed ‘injury’ from speech – are entitled, if they prevail, to recover damages, costs of investigation, and attorney fees.”

That means someone commenting about the eligibility of convicted felons to vote would face “potentially thousands of dollars in civil penalties…”

The intent of the law actually was revealed, the complaint notes, when supporters claimed it would protect voters “from intimidation, harassment or anything that would hinder them from voter.”

It also condemns “false” information without explaining how that would be defined.

And challenging the law? A leftist explained that would be “nothing more than an attempt to suppress the vote of certain members in our communities….”

The complaint illegally suppresses speech by imposing a fear of prosecution.

Specifically, the complaint charges, Minnesota lawmakers directly have created a conflict with the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

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