Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. It’s never too early to learn about candidates and make plans to vote. Minnesota disability advocacy and service groups offer information and resources for voters, as does the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. For people with disabilities who want to avoid long lines at the polls, casting a ballot by mail or before Election Day can be a huge help. Minnesota offers “no excuses” absentee or early voting. Ballots are available to be mailed or for early in-person voting 46 days before an election.
Recent changes to state law also offer permanent absentee voter status, which would result in an absentee ballot mailed to the voter before each election. Voters who live in townships outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area can use Expanded Mail Balloting. Registered voters in these rural areas will be able to get their ballots directly in the mail and mail them back for counting. That will help people with disabilities and senior citizens in areas where otherwise individuals might have difficulty getting to the polling place.
Contact the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office at 1-877-600-VOTE or the county elections office to find out about absentee ballots and early voting. Or go to www.disability.state.mn.us/resources/voting-information/ or www.mnvotes.org for information.
Want to go to the polls on Election Day? Plan ahead. Unless a service materializes, no “rides to the polls” service will be offered in 2016. Voters should work with their regular paratransit providers, family members or friends to obtain transportation to the polls.
On Election Day voters with disabilities can seek accommodations at polling places. Ask to obtain assistance in filling out a ballot. This should be done under the precinct head election judge’s supervision, with two judges from different parties. Voters may also bring a friend or family member to assist with voting. A third option is to ask to use the Automark ballot marking system available in many counties. The Automark is a ballot marking device for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Voting workshops and candidate forums are coming up. The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) offers the Exercise Your Right to Vote workshop, 6-7 p.m. Thursday, September 22 at the AuSM office, 2380 Wycliff St. #102, St. Paul. The workshop is a time to educate individuals with autism and other learning differences on eligibility requirements, registering to vote, how voting works and accessibility.
Cindy Jarvi from the Minnesota Disability Law Center will lead the workshop. Jarvi has extensive knowledge in special education, discipline and forms of dispute resolution. She trains parents, school staff, public defenders, and county services staff and also works on voting rights.
The workshop is free but participants should register. Got to www.ausm.org for details. Best Life Alliance, ARRM and many partners have scheduled candidate forums throughout the state. Attend, meet candidates for office and learn about key issues. Forums are by Minnesota Senate district or Congressional district.
- The District 42 forum is 6-8 p.m. Monday, October 3, Ramsey County Library, Roseville Library, 2180 N. Hamline Ave., Roseville. Cohosts are REM Ramsey, Northeast Residence and Living Well Disability Services.
- District 19 forum is 5-7 p.m., Tuesday, October 4, Blue Earth County Library, 100 E. Main St., Mankato. Cohosts are MBW Company, Harry Meyering Center and Habilitative Services.
- District 14 forum is 6-8 p.m. Thursday, October 6, St. Cloud Public Library- Mississippi Room, 1300 W. St. Germain St., St. Cloud. Cohosts are Mary T. Inc. and WACOSA.
- Districts 35 and 37 forum is 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, October 11 at Mary T. Inc. Margaret Place Senior Apartments, 1555 118th Lane NW, Coon Rapids. Cohosts are Mary T. Inc. and Opportunity Partners.
- Districts 25 and 26 forum is 6-8 p.m. Monday, October 17 at Zumbro Lutheran Church- Kairos Room, 624 3rd Ave SW, Rochester. Cohosts are Cardinal of MN
and Hiawatha Homes.
- Congressional District 3 forum is 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, October 18 at Opportunity Partners- Koch Campus, 5500 Opportunity Court, Minnetonka. Cohosts are Arc Minnesota, Arc Greater Twin Cities, MOHR, Opportunity Partners, Mary T. Inc., Bethesda, Fraser, Reach for Resources, Mains’l and Hammer.