Two landlords challenged the constitutionality of ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul requiring landlords to provide voter registration information to new tenants. U.S. District Court Judge Wilhelmina Wright ruled Monday that the ordinances were a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The ordinance requiring landlords to provide voter information to tenants was passed in St. Paul in 2018.
The St. Paul ordinance states, “Obligation to inform. An owner of a residential property that lets for occupancy any dwelling unit or rooming unit for a period of more than thirty (30) days, at the time of lease signing (or at the time of first occupancy if there is no formal lease), provide [sic] information to all tenant(s) who are eighteen (18) years of age or older of the tenant(s)’ [sic] right to register to vote in the state of Minnesota and provide information on how to register to vote. An owner shall satisfy this requirement by providing voter registration information identified by the city clerk.”
Failure of a landlord to comply with the St. Paul ordinance was a petty misdemeanor.
Minneapolis enacted a similar ordinance in 2016. The Minneapolis ordinance states, “Beginning March 1, 2016, and continuing thereafter, the owner of any dwelling which is required to be licensed by this chapter shall provide information about how a voter may register in the State of Minnesota, in a manner approved by the city, to all tenants aged eighteen (18) or older at the time of first occupancy.”
Failure to comply with the Minneapolis ordinance would result in the loss of the landlord’s rental license.
The plaintiffs for the case included landlords from Minneapolis and St. Paul as well as the non-profit, The Minnesota Voters Alliance.
In an article by Courthouse News, Attorney Erick Kaardal, who represented the Minnesota Voters Alliance in the case stated, “We’re really happy with the court ruling. We think the City of Minneapolis and City of St. Paul, that their ordinances targeted landlords unfairly. Of course the landlords want maximum registration of voters, but the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis picked an unconstitutional means … The landlords want to do the best for their landlord-tenant relationships, but requiring voting information is one step beyond that.”