Election Day is Tuesday November 4. Minnesotans will be voting for U.S. House and Senate, governor, Minnesota House members, state offices and in many communities, local officials. Some communities may have referendums or specific ballot questions.
People with disabilities have historically voted at lower rates than the general public. Inaccessible polling places, incorrect assumptions about the capacity of individuals to vote, and complexities in the voting process that creates unnecessary barriers for voters with disabilities can be deterrents to voting.
Voting is important. Everyone needs to have a say in choosing elected officials and weighing in on ballot questions. Every person with disabilities who casts a ballot sets the course for law and policy changes that affect every aspect of life.
Law changes help voters
Minnesota recently made changes in law and rules that remove some unnecessary barriers and make it easier for people with disabilities to exercise the fundamental right to vote in elections.
Minnesota law allows individuals to register to vote online. Online voter registration makes it easier for individuals to register. Studies have shown that it increases voter turnout.
Voters who don’t wish to wait in long lines at a polling place can cast absentee ballots. Absentee voting is easier now because Minnesota has adopted “no excuse” absentee voting clause. Before, voters had to specific why they wished to vote absentee. Now no reason has to be stated to vote prior to Election Day.
Voters with disabilities who were concerned about disclosing disability need not do so. Request an absentee ballot through the mail at: mnvotes.org
Voters can also cast ballots in person at the local elections office between now and Election Day. Hours can vary from community to community. The website mnvotes.org can help voters find the correct place to vote absentee or the correct precinct location for Election Day.
People who have moved since the last election can register at the polls. Minnesota’s same-day voter registration program was changed to expand the list of documents voters can use to register on Election Day. Voters use documents to prove identity and residency. For example, a voter can now show an old out-of-state driver’s license, in combination with an expanded list of bills that list the voter’s current address, such as a banking, credit card or mortgage statement. For a full list of Election Day registration options, visit mnvotes.org
In another important development, uncertainty regarding voting rights of people under guardianship was settled by the federal courts. The courts found that individuals under guardianship are presumed competent to vote and are able to register and vote unless the current guardianship order specifically revoked a ward’s right to vote. Anyone under guardianship should read the court’s guardianship order and talk with the guardian prior to voting. The Minnesota Disability Law Center/Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid can provide consultation on guardianship issues, at 1-800- 292-4150 (statewide) or 1-612-334-5970 (metro).
Election Day hotlines and voting information
The Minnesota Disability Law Center/Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid runs a voter hotline on Election Day during the hours that the polls are open, 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Anyone experiencing a problem voting or with a voting-related question, can call 1-800- 292-4150. A second hotline for general voting-related problems on Election Day is 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
An excellent resource for all election-related questions, forms and sample ballots, is the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website.
-This information was prepared by the Minnesota Disability Law Center/Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid