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Your need-to-know guide for midterm elections in Minnesota

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'Vote Here' sign at polling station
A 'Vote Here' sign placed outside the polling station at Susan B. Anthony Middle School in Minneapolis in 2016.
Luke Taylor | MPR

Updated: Sept. 12 | Posted: Sept. 11

You've done your research and know exactly who you want to vote for in the November election — but do you know if you're registered to vote? Do you know where your polling place is?

To successfully cast your ballot, it's as important to know about the candidates as it is to understand the basics of how to vote. Every state runs its elections differently, and Minnesota has its own quirks.

Here's a breakdown on how to make sure you're eligible and prepared to cast your ballot on (or before) Election Day.

 Am I eligible to vote? 

A quick test: 

  • Are you a U.S. citizen? 

• Will you be at least 18 years old on election day? 

• Have you lived in Minnesota for at least 20 days?

• If you are a felon, have you completed all parts of your prison sentence? 

• Are you legally competent? 

If you answered yes to all these questions, you passed the test. You are eligible to vote. 

 How do I register to vote? 

If you've already registered to vote at your current address and have voted at least once in the last four-year period, you're likely still registered. 

If you want to double check to be sure, it's easy to do online

But if you've recently moved, changed your name or it's been a while since you last voted, you need to register. 

You can register 21 days ahead of time online or on paper, but if you haven't done that yet, don't worry: Unlike many states, Minnesota has same-day voter registration, meaning you can register to vote at your polling place right before you cast your ballot. 

To do that, you'll need to bring with you a proof of residence, and you've got plenty of options. The easiest is your driver's license, but you can also bring a permit, passport, school ID, military or tribal ID, student fee statements, a lease agreement valid through election day or most bills or bank statements that also list your address. 

If for some reason you don't have any of those things, you can also bring a registered voter from your precinct to go with you to the polling place and sign an oath confirming your address. This is called "vouching."

 Do I need to register with a political party? 

No. 

Minnesota voters do not need to register with any party in order to vote in the midterm elections. 

 Where do I vote? 

You must vote in your local polling place, which is easy to find on the Minnesota Secretary of State's  website. 

 How can I cast my ballot? 

Once you've determined your polling place, you can head there anytime after polls open at 7 a.m. or before they close at 8 p.m. 

Your employer is required by law to allow you time to vote, and if you're still waiting in line when the polls close, don't worry. The law also requires that you get to cast your ballot. Make sure you know your rights as a voter.

 Can I vote early? 

Not everyone can or wants to vote on actual election day, which is Nov. 6.  Minnesota has no-excuse absentee balloting, which means you can vote up to 46 days before election day either in-person at your local early voting center, or by requesting and submitting a mail-in ballot before Nov. 5.

This year, early voting kicks off for the general election on Sept. 21. 

 Are there any nonpartisan races on the ballot? 

Yes. 

While they might not be as prominent as something like the governor, these officials make important decisions about your community. They can include your local city, county and township offices, school boards and park boards.

 What about ballot initiatives? 

There are no statewide ballot questions this year, but the back of your ballot could include a number of local ballot questions, including local school levies, city charter amendments and more. 

 Are Minnesota's data systems, and my vote, secure? 

Nationally, there's a lot of concern about outside groups breaking into state election systems. In Minnesota, that's not easy to do. The state has a decentralized system spread out across thousands of polling places and officials in all 87 counties, so there's no single administrator. 

Minnesota also has a paper balloting system that is never connected to the internet during the voting process. That makes it hard to hack.

 Can I wear a button to my polling place? 

State law prohibits voters from casting a ballot while wearing clothing related to a campaign, like a T-shirt either supporting or opposing a candidate. 

Until June, it also barred voters from wearing a "political badge, political button, or other political insignia" to their polling place. That part of the law was struck down by the United States Supreme Court. 

 I want to share my ballot on social media, can I take a picture? 

Yes.

There's no law stopping you from snapping a photo and posting proof that you voted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and/or Snapchat although the Secretary of State's office discourages the practice for privacy reasons.