Minnesota Governor Sued by Voters Over Contradictory Mask Laws

August 4, 2020 Updated: August 4, 2020

A week before Minnesota primary voters go to the polls, the Minnesota Voters Alliance and an independent group of voters filed a federal lawsuit against Democrat Gov. Tim Walz challenging the state’s combination of laws that criminalize both wearing a mask and not wearing a mask.

As part of Walz’s Executive Order 20-81, dated July 22, in response to the pandemic, it’s currently illegal to appear in public without a protective face mask, according to a summary.

At the same time, Minnesota Statue 609.735, on the books since 1963, makes it against the law to wear a mask in a public place.

The legal complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief was filed Aug. 4 in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, ahead of the scheduled primary election Aug. 11.

“The governor can’t have it both ways,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Erick G. Kaardal, of the Minneapolis-based law firm of Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, said during a press conference conducted online.

“His poorly thought-out Executive Orders compel upstanding law-abiding citizens to wear face masks or face criminal fines, and in some circumstances, imprisonment.

“Those same individuals, complying with Walz’s order, are forced to violate longstanding Minnesota law, and by doing so commit a criminal act punishable by up to 90 days imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine.

“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.”

“Walz has brought this lawsuit upon his administration through his hasty despotic actions against the people of his state,” said Kaardal.

“The governor’s overall disregard for their well-being and insistence upon total control have created this untenable scenario, which the court must now resolve.”

Kaardal stressed that the purpose of the lawsuit was to provide clarity so Minnesotans know how to conduct themselves on Election Day, not necessarily to strike down the mask-wearing edict.

“No one in this case is saying that mask-wearing isn’t a good thing,” he said.

“It’s just in this case, the State of Minnesota has created conflicting laws where people are criminally prosecuted for wearing a mask and for not wearing a mask. The executive and legislative branch must decide which law prevails.

“Meanwhile, failing to do so has created a chilling effect on the plaintiffs who wish to exercise their political rights protected by the First Amendment—including in-person voting in the polling place on primary day, Aug. 11.”

The complaint itself explains how, according to the plaintiffs, Minnesota’s combination of laws criminalizing both wearing a mask and not wearing a mask are suppressing political participation and in-person voting in the primary election next week.

“Even in pandemics, when there is a likelihood of government deprivation of civil liberties, the branches of the government have to work together to ensure that the laws are narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest,” the complaint states.

State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a Republican, said in a statement that he supported the lawsuit.

“Each unlawful executive order signed by Governor Walz represents another violation of the Minnesota Constitution,” he said. “We are acting swiftly on this second lawsuit, and we will bring forward additional lawsuits to protect the people of Minnesota from the damage caused by the Governor’s wanton lawlessness.”

State Rep. Jeremy Munson, a Republican, also expressed support for the suit.

“I think it’s really important to get clarity on the issue,” he said during the press conference, calling the situation regarding the dueling mask laws “a constitutional crisis for our state.”

“The governor’s unilateral executive orders are an affront to transparency, accountability, and a constitutional process. We have challenged these orders since day one and will not be silent as long as the governor continues to act like a dictatorial monarch,” he said.

“Our lawsuit hopes to draw attention to the importance of our constitutional process. The rights and civil liberties of all citizens are protected by our state and federal constitutions. These documents are the law of the land, and they must not be suspended at any time simply because they are an inconvenience to Governor Walz.”

State Rep. Tim Miller, a Republican, said during the presser that his patience with Walz “has worn out.”

The governor’s mask mandate “is meant to condition people for more control,” Miller said. “I’ve tried talking to his people. They don’t call me back.”

The people Miller represents in rural Minnesota “are very frustrated,” he said.

“What the governor is doing both here and with the emergency powers is either unconstitutional or certainly against the laws of Minnesota.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Walz’s office for a comment but didn’t receive a reply as of press time.