For this article, I sat down with Secretary of State Steve Simon and Director of Elections David Maeda to discuss the logistics of voting for persons under guardianship. Highlights of our conversation are below. This article was originally published in the MAGiC Journal, January 2020.
Q. What are the ways that a person under guardianship can vote?
A. Unless their right to vote has specifically been removed by Court Order, a person under guardianship is treated no differently than a person not under guardianship and may vote in any of the ways that others may vote. The ways a person may vote include:
- Voting at the polling booth on election day
- Voting early by mail (absentee). To vote by mail, apply to have an absentee ballot mailed to you.
- Voting early in person (absentee). To vote early in person, you must apply for an absentee ballot and bring it in to your local election office. For most elections, absentee voting locations are open during normal business hours 46 days before the election. You can find your local election office on the Secretary of State website.
Q. Persons under guardianship oftentimes need assistance with mobility, reading, writing and processing. What are the ways that assistance can be provided to them in voting?
A. Any voter, including a person under guardianship, may receive the following type of assistance for voting:
- Bring a helper. This can be a friend, neighbor, family member, guardian or someone who knows the voter. The helper can help with all phases of the voting process, including in the voting booth. The helper cannot influence how the voter votes or share with anyone who the voter voted for.
- Ask an election judge to help. They can help with the entire process. If they are needed to mark a ballot, two election judges will do this (one from each party).
- Get help from a machine. Machines with monitors and various methods to mark your ballot are available.
- Vote from your car.
Certain persons may receive the following type of assistance in voting:
- Health Care Facility Outreach/Voting. For a designated 20-day period before elections, election judges travel to certain health care facilities and provide absentee ballots and assist with voting for persons in those facilities. You should contact the particular health care facility for details.
- Agent delivery. In special situations, a person may ask an agent to pick up and return an absentee ballot for them. To qualify for agent delivery, the voter must:
- Live in a nursing home,
assisted living facility, residential treatment center, group home or battered
- Or, be hospitalized;
- Or, be unable to go to the polling place due to incapacitating health reasons or a disability.
An individual cannot be an agent of more than three voters in an election. The agent must show identification with their name and signature when returning a ballot.
Q: Are polling places handicapped accessible?
A: Yes. Federal and State law requires that polling places be accessible to elderly and handicapped voters.
Q. Does a person under guardianship, or their guardian or assistant, have to bring any special documentation with them in order to vote?
A. No. There are no special requirements for a person under guardianship. The guardian does not need to bring Letters of Guardianship or Order Appointing Guardian, since the presumption in Minnesota is that a person can vote unless the right is removed by the Court. If the rights have been removed by the Court, the Secretary of State roster will indicate that they are ineligible to vote, and they will not be allowed to vote.