Attorney Kim Crockett addresses delegates in Rochester, Minnesota, after winning the Minnesota Republican Party's endorsement for secretary of state on May 13. (Photo: Dave Orrick/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images)
Kim Crockett, a leading candidate in Minnesota’s upcoming Republican secretary of state primary, questioned two years ago whether non-English speakers and people with disabilities should be allowed to vote in the state.
Crockett, who has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election, won the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement at its May convention. In Tuesday’s primary, she is likely to become the latestcandidate who has spread the “big lie” (a claim that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump) to become a Republican nominee for secretary of state.
While discussing a ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court that upheld a state law allowing people with disabilities or difficulty reading English to ask for help filling out their ballots, Crockett raised the issue of whether people in these groups should be allowed to vote.
“So, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that indeed you can help an unlimited number of people vote if they are disabled or can’t read or speak English, which raises the question, should they be voting?” she said during the September 2020 radio interview, which occurred less than a week after the ruling. “We can talk about that another time.”
Before the 2020 election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, two national party campaign arms, challenged a Minnesota law that allowed anyone to assist up to three voters who have a disability or difficulty reading English to fill out and turn in a ballot. Democrats argued that the three-person limit violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Republicans claimed that allowing one person to help an unlimited number of voters would allow “ballot harvesting” ― a term the GOP uses to argue against laws that allow voters to return ballots on behalf of other voters ― and encourage fraud.
Minnesota’s top court partially affirmed a lower court ruling in the case, removing the limit on how many people one person could help fill out a ballot. But it maintained a limit on how many absentee ballots any one person could return.
Crockett argued in an email that her comments were taken out of context and do not imply that people who require assistance to cast ballots should not be able to vote.
“You seem to be implying a judgment about the competency of all vulnerable voters and I have never made that judgment,” she said. “Individuals should be assisted by someone they know and who understands their capacities and does not influence them.”
She also said that the limits were meant to keep “political operatives, or other people with bad motives” from taking advantage of voters who require assistance, and said that she has witnessed those occurrences while working as an election attorney.
“The reason why the state legislature wanted to limit the number of people who could assist is that they worried that vulnerable voters would be taken advantage of and that political operatives, or other people with bad motives, would assist an unlimited number of people by influencing their votes with their own preferences,” Crockett said. “As an Election Day attorney I’ve witnessed, over and over, vulnerable voters being ‘assisted’ who have no idea how to fill out their ballot, who is on it or even what it’s for; their assistant tells them what to do and then moves on to the next voter.”
Crockett did not offer proof of this assertion, and did not immediately respond to a follow-up email asking her to clarify what she meant when she raised the question, “should they be voting?”
Crockett has made racist and xenophobic remarks about immigrants before: In 2019, while working at a right-wing think tank, she threatened to sue Minnesota over a resettlement program that brought Somali refugees to the state.
“I think of America, the great assimilator, as a rubber band, but with this — we’re at the breaking point,” Crockett said, according to The New York Times. “These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way. These people are very visible.”
At the May state GOP convention, Crockett also played an antisemitic video that portrayed Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon (D), who is Jewish, as a puppet of George Soros, the Jewish billionaire who contributes to numerous liberal-leaning campaigns, organizations and causes.
Republicans have long opposed measures that make it easier for people to assist other voters in filling out ballots. GOP candidates have at times suggested that the party should make it far more difficult for non-English speakers to cast ballots.
In 2018, for instance, a GOP candidate for secretary of state in Arizona said the state should stop printing ballots in Spanish and other languages that aren’t English. Many of the new voting restriction laws Republican state legislatures have passed in the last two years, meanwhile, contain provisions that will make it harder for people with disabilities and immigrant communities to vote.
Crockett has also relentlessly spread lies about the 2020 election, alleging without evidence that it was “rigged” against Trump and that President Joe Biden’s victory was “illegitimate.” On Tuesday, she will likely join Nevada’s Jim Marchant, Michigan’s Kristina Karamo and Arizona’s Mark Finchem as prominent election deniers who have won GOP nominations in swing state secretary of state primaries. She will enter the general election as an underdog against Simon, who has held office since 2014.
Ken Martin, the chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said Crockett’s remarks were “disgraceful” and “deserved our strongest condemnation.”
“Even in today’s extremist Republican Party, I have never before seen a candidate question whether people who do not speak English or people with disabilities should be allowed to vote,” Martin said in a statement. “Crockett has already attacked or denigrated Jewish people, Minnesotans who don’t speak English, immigrants, and people with disabilities. Why in the world would anybody trust her to oversee our elections and defend our freedom to vote?”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.