Election Day can pose many questions for first-time voters with disabilities. Many people do not know what to expect at the polling places when they arrive to vote. Once you determine where your polling place is (your County Elections Office will send this on a postcard after you register), you can arrive anytime between 7:00a.m. to 8:00p.m. to vote. Here is a general overview of some events that may take place when you arrive at your polling place to cast a ballot.
When you get to the polling place: Upon arrival at your polling place, you will be welcomed by the greeting judge. This election judge serves as a guide for voters and assists with maintaining traffic. The greeting judge will ask you if you are registered to vote. If the answer is no, the judge will direct you to the registration judge. If you preregistered, then you will be directed to the roster judge.
If you need to register: You will be asked to complete a registration card before you vote. The registration judge will assist you. A current MN driver’s license or state ID is required to register. Another option for same day registration is to bring a MN ID, a passport, or a student ID, along with a utility or phone bill that lists your current address. Finally, you can also bring a registered voter who lives in your precinct to vouch for your place of residence. After you have registered, you are ready to vote. The judge will then have you write your name and address on the roster and give you a voter’s receipt. You will then be directed to the ballot judge.
If you are already registered: The roster judge will find your name on the roster. If there are a large number of registered voters in your precinct, the rosters may be divided into alphabetical sections maintained by several judges. You’ll be asked to sign the roster next to your name. If writing is difficult for you, simply make a mark. The judge will assist you. After this is finished, obtain your voter’s receipt. The ballot judge will then tell you where to vote.
When you are ready to vote: The ballot judge will give you instructions on how to fill out your ballot. They will take your voter’s receipt and hand you the ballot. Next, they will guide you to an open booth where you can vote. There should be at least one wheelchair accessible voting booth available for individuals who may need it. Depending on where you vote and what kinds of ballots are used in your precinct, you may have to place an X or fill in a circle next to the candidate you want to vote for. If you need assistance, two election judges from two different parties will help you mark your ballot. Remember that voting should be an independent and private process! No one has the right to influence how you vote at the polling place. When you are finished marking your ballots, turn them into the designated ballot box or counter.
After you have voted: You have the option of obtaining your red “I Voted” sticker after turning in your ballots. You are now done with voting on Election Day!
As explained above, the process of voting is quite simple. Many people with disabilities have apprehensions about visiting unfamiliar places because of uncertainty regarding accessibility, assistance, and how they will be treated by others. Despite the ease of the voting process, issues will arise. Here are some questions you might have about Election Day:
What if I can’t read or write very well?
Election judges will be able to assist you. You must sign the roster yourself. You can also bring someone you know (a family member or friend) to help you.
What if I make a mistake while I am voting? Tell an election judge right away. They will help determine whether your ballot needs replaced.
What if I cannot see or hear? Election judges will assist you. They may appoint two election judges to help you read your ballot. More than likely, your polling place will not be able to provide an ASL interpreter or materials in Braille. However, the election judges must communicate with you through other means to provide assistance to you. Again, bring someone who can help, or be prepared with your own materials that will make the process easier (a notebook for writing, a magnifying glass for reading, etc.).
What if I use a wheelchair? Federal law requires that polling places are wheelchair accessible. If your place happens to be inaccessible, request an election official to bring a ballot to you in your vehicle. Some polling places also offer curbside voting. Check with your local elections office for more information.
What if I cannot speak well? Election officials are trained to provide assistance to all eligible voters despite their language abilities. They are required to provide as much assistance that is requested from the voter.
These situations and examples may not apply to you and may not necessarily happen when you go to the polls. However, it gives you sense of what to expect. It is a good idea to go to the polls earlier in the day before they get more crowded in the afternoons.
Voter Hotline: One final consideration for Election Day is provided by the Minnesota Disability Law Center through Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA). A voter hotline will be available as a service to people with disabilities. The purpose of the hotline is to provide technical support, answer questions, and assist with situations or challenges that may arise on Election Day. Following are more details:
There are two numbers for the hotline:
612-334-5785 x216 (metro area)
1-800-292-4150, x216 (greater Minnesota). Leave a message if the line is busy, or if you call during non-operating hours. You can call these numbers during office hours if you have any questions about voting prior to Election Day.
On Election Day, a staff attorney will be available throughout the day to provide additional support. Days and hours of operation:
Election Day, Tuesday, November 2, 7:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. — Wednesday, November 3, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. — Thursday, November 4, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
During these hours, the Voting Outreach Advocate will be available to take your incoming calls.