Supreme Court denial keeps mask mandate at Minnesota polls

Published 2:01 pm Monday, November 2, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A requirement that Minnesota voters wear masks at the polls to help stop the spread of the coronavirus will remain in place on Election Day, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to block the mandate while a lawsuit is being appealed.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who handles emergency requests from the federal appeals court that oversees Minnesota, denied the request for an emergency injunction from a group of voters that is trying to do away with the mask requirement.

The voters sued Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and other officials in August, arguing Walz’s mask mandate conflicts with a 1963 state law making it a misdemeanor for someone to conceal their identity with a mask. A federal judge denied their request to block the mandate, and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did the same.

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The plaintiffs, including Minnesota Voters Alliance and five conservative activists, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an emergency ruling last week.

They have argued that the requirement to wear a mask in public places or face criminal prosecution violates the First Amendment.

Minnesota’s mandate requiring masks at all indoor businesses and indoor public settings applies to polling places, but a person will not be denied the right to vote if they do not have a mask. Under guidelines from the secretary of state, a voter without a mask will be asked to put one on and offered a mask if they do not have one. If they refuse, they will be offered curbside voting.

If the voter refuses all of those options, they will still be given a ballot and allowed to vote, but their name will be recorded as being in violation of the governor’s mask mandate and they could end up being convicted of a petty misdemeanor and fined up to $100.