Headed out to vote? Keep a few things in mind before you go

Stockton voters
Voters fill the booths during Election Day 2012 in Stockton, Minn.
Winona Daily News, Andrew Link | AP Photo 2012

Election Day is closing in — and whether you're an old pro at the polling booth or voting for the first time, you'll want to arrive prepared. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get ready to cast your ballot.

If you want to vote on Election Day but haven't registered

If you missed the deadline to register online, don't worry. In Minnesota, you can register on Election Day or when turning in an absentee ballot. You are considered eligible to vote if you are a U.S. citizen over the age of 18 who has lived in Minnesota for at least 20 days. And if you've been convicted of a felony, you will have had to have completed all parts of your sentence before casting your vote.

You should...

• Make sure you show up to the correct polling place for your precinct.

• Arrive some time between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. — as long as you're in line by 8 p.m., you'll be allowed to vote that day.

• Make sure you bring approved documents to act as proof of residence. See a list of approved documents here.

• Find someone who knows your address to vouch for you at the polling place if you don't have the necessary documents.

You shouldn't...

• Worry if you don't currently have an address. If you are homeless, you can use the location where you usually sleep as an address, though you may need to bring a witness of this to vouch for you.

If you want to support your candidate

You can...

• Vote for your candidate.

• Campaign for your candidate prior to Election Day.

• Display yard signs, stickers and other political materials on your own property.

Take a photo of yourself at the polling place to post on your own social media.

Take time off of work to vote on Election Day without losing pay or vacation time.

• Bring someone you trust with you to help you vote.

• Ask election judges for help. Two judges from different major political parties can help you mark your ballot.

• Request curbside voting if you cannot easily leave your vehicle to enter the polling place. Two judges from different major political parties will bring your ballot to you and take it back to the polling place for you.

• Bring your minor children with you to the polling place so there's no need to hire a sitter.

You're not allowed to...

• Enter any polling place where you are not authorized to vote.

• Campaign in or within 100 feet of any polling place.

• Display any campaign material within 100 feet of the polling place, unless it is adjacent private property.

• Wear any T-shirts, stickers, buttons or other political material inside the polling place. If you do, you will be asked to remove or cover them while you vote.

• Take photos of anyone other than yourself. Members of the news media are allowed to take photos and video only if they first present their credentials to the head election judge at a polling place.

• Take photos of your — or anyone else's — marked ballot. There are two Minnesota statutes that prohibit voters from showing their marked ballot to others so displaying your own in a picture could violate these rules.

• Sign your ballot with a campaign sticker.

If you want to act as a challenger

Authorized challengers are individuals appointed by their political party who may contest a voter's eligibility on Election Day if they have personal knowledge of a reason that voter might not be eligible. Challengers write down any challenges they may have, along with a reasonable explanation to present to election judges in the precinct. They are not poll watchers and have to follow a strict set of rules.

You should...

• Contact your preferred political party before Election Day to become the appointed challenger in your precinct. Only one challenger per party is allowed to spend the day at a precinct.

• Present the signed certificate given to you by your political party to the head election judge when you arrive at your precinct.

You're not allowed to...

• Talk to any voter you intend to challenge.

• Handle any applications or documentation at the polling place.

• Take photos within the polling place.

• Intimidate or disrupt voters in any way.

• Make lists of who to challenge prior to Election Day, or make lists of who has or has not voted on Election Day.

If you know you won't be able to vote on Election Day

Minnesota allows for absentee and early voting by mail or in person all the way up to Nov. 7 — the day before Election Day. Some city and town offices offer in-person early voting, too. You don't need to provide a reason if you want to vote absentee, but you should keep these tips in mind.

You can...

Request an absentee ballot online, by mail or by fax.

• Fill out your absentee ballot and return it to the voting office that sent it to you either by mail or in person.

• Ask your friends and family if they need to turn their ballots in as well — you can return up to three ballots for others.

But don't...

• Wait until the last minute if you plan to vote absentee by mail. Your application can take several days to process and your election office must receive your ballot by Election Day or it won't be counted.


Did you get all that? Check your newfound Minnesota voter knowledge with this quiz — and if you see anyone not following the rules on Election Day, be sure to file a complaint with the Secretary of State's office and report it to MPR News here.

Information gathered from the Minnesota Secretary Of State website.

Editor's note: The description in an earlier version of this story may have been unclear on state law regarding taking pictures while voting. To clarify, the law prohibits voters from showing their marked ballot to others so displaying your own in a picture could be in violation of these rules.

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