Election 2020: Voting in person? Here's what you need to know

A sign that reads "vote here" and a sign that reads "keep your distance."
A sign outside the Ramsey County Elections Office tells voters to maintain social distance during early voting Sept. 18, in St. Paul.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Updated: 6:40 p.m.

With time running out to mail in your vote, you may want to consider voting absentee in person or in person on Election Day.

While voters can mail in their ballots up until Election Day, officials are encouraging voters to instead vote in person or drop off their absentee ballots. Mail in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 will be held separately as a challenge to the grace period is resolved in court.

Here is a how-to guide with all you need to know about voting in person. 

Where to vote

If you are voting early and in person, you can cast your ballot at your county election office. Some cities and towns have also added additional in person early voting sites. These sites have been operating under normal business hours Monday through Friday since Sept. 18 — with one scheduled weekend day: Saturday, Oct. 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You can vote early all the way up to Election Day, Nov. 3. If you received a mail in ballot you also have the option the drop it off to the election office that originally sent it to you all the way up till 3 p.m. on Election Day.

If you are voting on Election Day, you can cast your ballot at your local polling place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. As long as you are in line by 8 p.m., you will be able to vote. If you vote during your scheduled work hours, your workplace is required to pay you for the time it takes.

Voting locations and hours can be found on the Minnesota Secretary of State website using their polling place finder tool. It’s important to double check as your polling place may have changed since the last time you voted due to COVID-19 precautions.

What to bring

If you haven’t registered to vote you can do so at your polling place. You will need to bring one proof of residence. This could be a photo ID with your current name and address, a college student ID with a housing list or even a registered voter who can confirm your address. Find a full list of approved documents here.

If you have already registered to vote, you do not need to bring any form of ID.

How to vote without an address

If you do not have an address because you are experiencing homelessness in Minnesota, you can still vote. To do this you need to find a registered voter in your same precinct who can vouch for you. 

Vouching is when someone confirms to election officials that you are currently residing where you claim you are, whether that be a shelter or an encampment. If you reside at a shelter, a staff member can also come with to vouch for you. 

How to vote as a college student

For many out-of-state college students, they do not consider their place on campus to be their home and assume they can’t vote because of this. However, even if you have an out of state license or pay out of state tuition, you can still vote in Minnesota.

If you only go back to your parent’s house to visit and consider your campus address to be your home, put down your school address as your place of residence when you register to vote. 

If you are registering to vote on Election Day, be sure to bring a proof of residence. For college students, this could be your student ID, another photo ID along with a document with your campus address, or even your roommate who is a registered voter and can vouch for you.

What to wear and not to wear

Since polling places are all indoors, masks are required. You can bring your own mask to wear, but if you forget one, a polling place worker will give you a disposable one to wear as you cast your ballot.

If you refuse to wear the mask, you can cast a ballot through curbside voting without violating the state’s mask requirement. You can also utilize curbside voting if it’s difficult for you to leave your vehicle.

If you want to decline a mask and curbside voting, you will still be allowed to vote — but your name will be recorded as in violation of the mask requirement. 

Voters who wear campaign materials such as T-shirts or buttons specifically supporting or opposing a candidate or issue on the ballot are strictly prohibited by state law. Voters can still wear attire with slogans or logos from social movements or previous elections with different candidates.

Be careful with your camera

You are allowed to take a photo or video of your voting experience, but election officials discourage the practice for a couple of reasons.

First, if your voting place is crowded, you may accidentally record or photograph someone who did not wish to be documented voting. Next, while you’re allowed to take your time while voting, stopping to take a photo might slow down the process more than necessary.

If you can’t go to a polling place because of injury or illness

If you're in a health care facility or you experience a health emergency at the last minute, you can have an agent deliver you an absentee ballot and then return it for you by 3 p.m. Election Day.

You can choose your own helper as long as they are 18 years or older and have an existing relationship with you. Find more details here.

Safety precautions are being taken

Jurisdictions will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on sanitizing procedures — which include wiping down surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people, such as clipboards, voting machines and registration tables, and sanitizing tools and other materials like pens between users.

What happens if a vote is challenged

Each major political party can have one challenger per polling place. They’ve been designated in advance by their party so it can’t be a person who just shows up to take on the task on their own accord. 

“They can’t come within 6 feet of a voter or a piece of tabulating equipment. They can’t talk to a voter,” Secretary of Sate Steve Simon said. “And any challenges to a voter’s eligibility must be made in writing and must be made with personal knowledge.”

The challenge is lodged through an election judge, and the voter whose eligibility is questioned is then asked questions by the judge before they’re either turned away or presented with a ballot. 

There’s no limit on the number of voters each challenger can lodge a challenge against.

You have a right to cast your vote without being influenced at the polling place. Find a breakdown of your rights to vote on the Secretary of State’s website.

If you experience or notice any problems at your polling place, you can file an official complaint with the state.

You can also report and track issues through a partnership between newsrooms called “ElectionLand.” Report any issues here.

Have questions leading up to the Election Day? #AskMPRNews. We want to hear your stories, too. #TellMPRNews what is motivating you to get out and vote this year.

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