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CAIR-MN: Federal Court Approves Landmark Settlement Between Voting Rights Advocates and Private Security Company Charged with Voter Intimidation

Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota reach an agreement with Atlas Aegis to settle a Voting Rights Act lawsuit via a consent decree. 

(MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 2/16/21) — A federal judge today approved a sweeping settlement in a lawsuit brought by voting rights advocates against a private security contractor, Atlas Aegis, for illegal voter intimidation in Minnesota. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota (LWV-MN) celebrated the settlement as a major victory for democracy.  

Today, Judge Brasel approved a consent decree that resolves all remaining claims in the lawsuit. Under the consent decree, which lasts until January 1, 2025, Atlas Aegis and Caudle are:  

  • Prohibited from deploying armed agents within 250 feet of (or otherwise monitoring) any early voting location during early voting, a polling place on election day, places where ballots are being counted, recounted, or canvassed; or where county canvassing boards or the State Canvassing Board are meeting to canvass, inspect, or declare the results of that election; or where Minnesota’s presidential electors are meeting to vote in the presidential general election.  
  • Prohibited from otherwise taking any action to intimidate, threaten, or coerce voters, people aiding voters, or people engaged in tabulating, counting, or reporting votes.  
  • Required to notify CAIR-MN and LWV-MN in writing 25 days before any federal election if they are supplying security personnel for any non-election-related protective services (e.g., providing security for an art exhibition or concert) where armed security personnel may be visible to the public within 250 feet of a polling place on election day.  

Any violations of the consent decree will be enforceable as contempt of court.  

“America’s strength is our democracy, which is built on free and fair elections. Atlas Aegis planned a professional military-style action to intimidate minority voters in Minnesota, a clear threat to our democracy. On January 6th, our nation witnessed an insurrection fuel by the same efforts that propelled Atlas Aegis and others to undermine our democracy,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN.  

Hussein added: “The settlement reached today sends a strong message to Atlas Aegis and others across our state and nation that we will defend our democracy from both foreign and domestic threats. We are thankful to our partners the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, Free Speech for For People and Lathrop GPM LLP for their steadfast support in reaching this consent decree.” 

“Today’s agreement ensures that Minnesota voters, especially voters of color, will be able to cast their ballots without fear of intimidation from armed vigilantes,” said Michelle Witte, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Minnesota. “The undeniable basis of Atlas Aegis’s planned deployment of armed agents to polling places was racism. We will always stand up to voter suppression in all forms, violent or systemic—especially when it targets voters of color.” 

“The 2020 election and its aftermath tested our ability to hold free and fair elections and a peaceful transfer of power,” said Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People. “This consent decree will help ensure that Minnesotans can vote without fear of intimidation.” 

“I am proud to have represented the Council on American-Islamic Relations–Minnesota and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota in this case. The right to vote is one of the most precious rights of every American citizen, and it is our job as lawyers to protect that right,” said Julia Dayton Klein, Partner at Lathrop GPM. “Today, we protected this right for all Minnesotans regardless of race, religion or gender.” 

The consent decree approved by the federal court requires the plaintiffs to state as follows:           

“This matter has been resolved by agreement. The parties have agreed that Defendants shall be restricted in their actions as set forth in the terms of the attached Consent Decree. Defendants have not admitted any liability and specifically deny they have committed any statutory violation.”  

BACKGROUNDER: 

In October 2020, CAIR-MN and LWV-MN, represented by lawyers from Free Speech For People and two private law firms, sued Atlas Aegis and its chairman, Anthony Caudle, for a plan to hire and deploy armed ex-soldiers to polling sites in the state.  

The complaint cited an advertisement for armed security on election day in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area that appeared on job posting websites on October 6, 2020, as well as interviews with Caudle in the Washington Post confirming the authenticity of the advertisements and threatening to send ex-special forces soldiers to guard polling places in Minnesota from “antifas” and those who support “Black Lives Matter.”  

The City of St. Paul and the City of Minneapolis submitted filings in support of the lawsuit. On October 29, 2020, Judge Nancy Brasel of the U.S. District Court in Minnesota issued a preliminary injunction banning Atlas Aegis or Caudle from deploying armed agents near polling places in the November 2020 election. 

The plaintiffs in this case were represented by Free Speech For People (a nonpartisan nonprofit legal advocacy organization), Lathrop GPM LLP in Minneapolis, and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP in New York.  

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DATE: February 16, 2021 

CONTACT:  Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-MN, (612) 406-0070, jHussein@cair.com 

        Kayla Vix, LWV, (202) 809-9668, kvix@lwv.org 

        Edward Erikson, 202-420-9947, Press@FreeSpeechForPeople.org 

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