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Voting is the backbone of our democracy and is a privilege for law abiding citizens to partake in. But what happens when 20% of the population, all who are potential voters, cannot access information or data to make informed votes? 

Before 2008, Minnesota law did not make it mandatory for campaign ads to have captions or for state candidates to provide transcripts for their campaign radio ads. This made it incredibly hard for deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing voters be informed about in-state candidates’ platforms because these ads were inaccessible. Not only that, this narrows the audience that candidates can reach and may make these populations feel insignificant to the candidate.

Who this impacts

  • Voters who are deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing
  • Voters in general
  • Candidates running for office in Minnesota 

Solution

Fortunately, in 2008, the Campaign Ad Law Captioning Law was passed and made it mandatory for any state candidate who accepted public subsidies to caption their online and tv ads, as well as provide transcripts of their radio ads to the public. MNCDHH has also provided information on our website for concerned citizens to report state candidate ads that do not comply with this law and steps to how candidates can easily comply with this law. We also provide resources on how to caption your content as well as a link to an online course called, "Video Captioning Essentials."

Candidates who fail to comply may undergo a formal investigation by the Campaign Finance Board, may receive a fine, or even both.  

Minnesota Statutes 10A.38 requires legislative candidates who agree to spending limits to make their ads accessible as follows: 

Broadcast or cable campaign ads 

“A campaign advertisement that is disseminated as an advertisement by broadcast or cable television must include closed captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers unless the candidate has filed with the board before the advertisement is disseminated a statement setting forth the reasons for not doing so.”

Ads on a candidate’s website

“A campaign advertisement that is disseminated as an advertisement to the public on the candidate's Web site must include closed captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, unless the candidate has posted on the Web site a transcript of the spoken content of the advertisement or the candidate has filed with the board before the advertisement is disseminated a statement setting forth the reasons for not doing so.”

Radio ads

“A campaign advertisement must not be disseminated as an advertisement by radio unless the candidate has posted on the candidate's Web site a transcript of the spoken content of the advertisement or the candidate has filed with the board before the advertisement is disseminated a statement setting forth the reasons for not doing so.”

Who was involved?

  • MNCDHH  
  • Minnesota Legislature, especially Senator Ann Rest
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