Why does voting matter?

Your vote is your voice in your community and in the country.

America has a form of government called a 'democratic republic'. What does that mean? A republic is a form of government where the country and its business are the concern of the citizens (the public), not the private property of the rulers. A democratic republic refers to the way in which the people in power get there. In a democracy, the people choose who is in charge. This is where elections become so important. The voting system is how you as an individual citizen have a say about who is in the governor's seat or the Senate or the White House.


Naomi Johnston

Am I eligible to vote?

To vote in Minnesota, you must be:
  • A U.S. citizen
  • At least 18 years old on Election Day
  • A resident of Minnesota for 20 days
  • Finished with all parts of a felony sentence
You may vote if you are under guardianship unless a judge has specifically revoked your right to vote.

You may not vote in Minnesota if:
  • A court has ruled you are legally incompetent.
Source: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/register-to-vote/who-can-vote/

To vote in a national election, you can vote if you:
  • Are a U.S. citizen
  • Meet Minnesota's 20-day residency requirement
  • Are 18 years old on or before Election Day
  • Are registered to vote before Minnesota's voter registration deadline (which is Election Day)
You cannot vote in a national election if you:
  • Are not a U.S. citizen, including permanent legal residents
  • Are serving part of a felony sentence, per Minnesota's rules
  • If a court has ruled you incompetent, per Minnesota's rules
  • If it's a presidential election, U.S. citizens residing in U.S. territories

Source: https://www.usa.gov/who-can-vote

Register to Vote

Verify if you are registered

To find out if you are already registered to vote in Minnesota, use this website:

While it isn't required, I strongly recommend entering your date of birth to get the most accurate results.

Absentee Voting

Absentee voting is when you complete the ballot ahead of time and mail it in or drop it off, usually because you are unable to go to your polling place on Election Day. Because of the pandemic, many more people are interested in absentee voting this year than usual. If you know you will not be able to vote in person, try to request your ballot as soon as possible to ensure smooth processing of absentee ballots.

Request an absentee ballot:

Register before Election Day

Registration temporarily closes 20 days before the election, then re-opens on Election Day. Registration will close on October 13, 2020 for the November 3rd General Election.

Follow the steps oulined on the Minnesota State voter registration portal:
You'll need an email address and a driver's licence or Minnesota ID card.

On Paper
Forms are available in multiple languages on this website:
You can print the form and mail it in or drop it off in St. Paul.

Register on Election Day

You can register on Election Day at your polling place. You'll need one of the following proofs of residence:
  • ID with current name and address (like a driver's license or state-issued ID card)
  • Photo ID -AND- a document with current name and address (like a utility bill or lease)
  • Registered voter who can confirm your address ('vouch' for you)
  • College student ID with housing list
  • Valid registration in the same precinct
  • Notice of late registration (received in the mail, may be sent if you try to register within 20 days of the election)
  • Staff person at a residential facility
Source: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/register-to-vote/register-on-paper/

Election Day

When is Election Day?

In Minnesota, the upcoming statewide election is the general election on November 3rd, 2020.

Where is my polling place?

A "polling place" is the location where you vote in person on Election Day.
Use the polling place finder to identify your polling place.
You'll need to enter the address that you consider 'home'.

What's a ballot?

A "ballot" is the form you fill out with your choice of who you want to vote for. Each person completes one ballot per election. You can request a ballot by mail (absentee voting) or fill one out on Election Day at your polling place.

What to expect on Election Day at my polling place

Someone will be waiting at the door to greet you and ask if you have registered. They'll direct you to either the registration table or the check-in table.

If you did not already register, you will need to do so on Election Day. Check the "Register to Vote" tab of this guide to make sure you have proof of address. You'll fill out a registration form, and a person will be there if you have any questions about the form.

Check In
If you have already registered ahead of time, or you complete your registration on Election Day, you'll be directed to a check in table. Usually there are several people checking voters in by last name. They may have signs saying, "A-F", "G-M", "N-Z", or something like that. Minnesota just started using iPads for check-in and registration, so you may be able to approach any person at the table if they have iPads. You can always ask if you are uncertain where you should check in. You'll be asked your name, and they will locate you in a binder of people or on the iPad. If you just registered, they may need to write some information down. You'll be asked to sign your name in the binder or on the iPad. Once checked in, you'll be handed a ticket to take to the table to receive your ballot.

A separate person usually gives you your ballot. They'll take your ticket from the check-in table, hand you a ballot, and diret you to a booth or table to complete your ballot.

Complete your ballot (see the next tab for some tips on that).

Submit ballot
Someone will be standing by a large machine with a display on top (tabulator). They'll direct you on how to insert your ballot into the tabulator. The machine tabulates (counts) votes, but the person helping you will not see how you voted. They'll hand you an "I voted!" sticker, which you are free to wear or not.
That's it! You've successfully voted!

Sample Ballot

Ballot Tips

Find your sample ballot by entering your address at:

On election day or if voting absentee, here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Make sure to check the front and back
  • Fill in the circle completely but don't go outside
  • Read the instructions first
  • Some elections allow you to vote for more than one candidate - make sure you know how many people to choose

Presidential Elections & the Electoral College

Every four years, there is a presidential election. On your ballot, you will vote for a candidate. This is called the "popular vote". However, this vote does not decide who will be president. The Electoral College decides this, and this process was designed by the Founding Fathers in our Constitution. Essentially, each candidate has a group of people called "electors" from each state who vote for the president and vice president. Some states bind their electors to choose the candidate who won the popular vote, but not all do. If there is no winner in the electoral college, then the U.S. House of Representatives chooses the Presidents and the U.S. Senate chooses the Vice President.

It may seem like you shouldn't vote in the popular vote, because the electors will choose the winner. However, in the popular vote, you are effectively voting for that candidate's electors. Your vote most definitely matters.

Sample Ballot for Rosemount, MN Primary

sample ballot
Sample Ballot for Rosemount, MN Primary

After Election Day

Election Results

You want to know who won, right? Many times, surveys are done at polling places to give us a sense of the direction the election is going before the official results have been tabulated. You can look at local and state news sources to find those survey results for your area.

Official results may be released the next day, or it could take several days to weeks if there are problems or a candidate calls for a recount of the votes. Official results of state-level elections are posted by the Office of the Secretary of State; you can find them here:

Local elections should be posted on the website of the government body in your area, whether that's the county or the city.


Contacting Elected Officials

Quick, can you name your district's representative to the Minnesota State House? No? That's okay! We can find it out together.

It's important to reach out to your elected officials to let them know what you think about the issues before them. It's their job to represent you and your concerns.

The Secretary of State website has gathered links to the various offices to help you reach your elected officials. You can also use the polling place finder to identify your district, then see who is the representative in that district.



A webinar covering the content of this guide was recorded on October 1, 2020. Watch the recording here: https://mediaspace.minnstate.edu/media/Election+Basics+Webinar/1_bklu8rxx