Blog Post from Zoey Doto, The Arc Minnesota Grassroots & Community Engagement Intern
Local elections are coming up on November 7th, 2023! Have you thought about who you are voting for and why local elections are just as important as voting in the presidential election? Read on to learn more about the power your vote in local elections holds and how to prepare for your local elections!
Why are local elections important?
Policy change starts at the local level and it is your right to vote! Your vote in local elections gives you the opportunity to advocate and express what issues are most important to you based on your needs and the needs of your community. Local elections tend to have a lower turnout, which actually increases the power of your individual vote. Voting for officials in your local elections has the most direct impact on your daily life. Some major policy topics that local officials regulate include education, housing, transportation, and accessibility.
“Democracy itself depends on the full accessibility of all of its processes.”
Accessibility in local communities can take several different forms. It can be seen as physical accessibility (wheelchair accessible buildings or parks), visual and/or audio accommodations to access city information, or cognitively accessible materials that use plain language.
Despite the importance of accessibility and the impact it has on individual lives, implementation at the local level can still pose challenges for individuals with disabilities. Services like special education services are critical for children with disabilities. Problems in schools can disproportionately affect children with disabilities and people of color. This further emphasizes the importance of why it is necessary to vote in all elections to ensure that elected officials are individuals who acknowledge this disparity and have a plan to address accessibility related issues and policies.
Engaging local elected officials as allies can result in success in getting funding for new accessible playgrounds from the legislature as we saw during 2023 for Apple Valley, Saint Paul, and Fridley. This is just one example of how people at the local level can work together to improve their community!
Who are you voting for? City and Town Elections
Now that you know why it’s important to vote, you might be wondering just who you are voting for and what do they do within your community. Check out the table below for key individuals who are on your local election ballot (there may be some differences from city to city):
To find a list of specific candidates in your local election, enter your home address into Polling Place Finder and then click on “List of Candidates”. There is also a link to find your Sample Ballot. What’s On My Ballot?
Where do I vote?
Where you vote, also known as your polling place, is determined by your current home address. Your polling place can be found using Polling Place Finder tool.
Who is eligible to vote?
To be eligible to vote in Minnesota, you must be: a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old on Election Day, a resident of Minnesota for at least 20 days, and not currently incarcerated for a felony. A new law makes it possible to vote immediately upon release from incarceration: Voting With A Criminal Record
Additionally, you must be registered to vote. You can register early, or you can register on Election Day.
- Early Registration (Deadline: October 17th, 2023)
- You can register online
- Online registration must be completed by 10/17/2023 at 11:59pm
- You can register on paper
- Paper registration must be submitted by 10/17/2023 at 5:00pm
Missed the early registration deadline? No problem! You can still register to vote on Election Day at your polling place.
- Registration on Election Day (November 7, 2023)
To register at your polling place on Election Day, you will need to bring one proof of residence document. A list of proof of residence documents can be found on this Election Day Registration Factsheet.
- If you do not have a proof of residence document, an already registered voter can accompany you to your polling place and confirm your address, allowing you to vote.
- This process is known as “vouching”.
- A registered voter can vouch for up to eight additional voters.
Once you have registered to vote, you have multiple options for how you can vote:
- Vote Early (Absentee Voting)
- Requesting An Accessible Ballot: Voters with print disabilities may request an absentee ballot that will be sent electronically. However, it must be returned by mail or to a local election office according to the criteria listed below.
- By mail
- To vote early by mail, you must apply to have an absentee ballot mailed to you (Note: you do not need be registered to vote to apply for your absentee ballot).
- Once you have received your absentee ballot, read the instructions carefully.
- You will need a witness when you vote and complete your ballot. The witness must be a registered Minnesota voter or a notary (public officials who are authorized to perform certain legal formalities, including witnessing signatures on documents). Notaries can be found at local banks or credit unions, or shipping stores and office supply stores. Notaries can often help for free or for a fee.
- Your mail-in ballot must be returned by Election Day to be counted.
- You can vote early in-person with an absentee ballot as well. Please review the list of early voting locations and their hours here.
- You must complete early in-person voting by November 6th, 2023.
- Agent Delivery
- If you are unable to physically get to your polling place due to being hospitalized or by reason of disability, you may be eligible for agent delivery of your ballot. Follow this link for more information about agent delivery.
- Polling places will close at 8pm on Election Day, however, as long as you are in line by 8pm, you can still vote!
- Curbside Voting: If you have a disability that prevents you from going inside to a polling station, you can vote in your car or outside the polling station. Two election workers of different political parties will come outside and provide you a ballot. They will then take the ballot inside after you complete it and have it counted. This was a true resource when COVID was at its peak!
Summary of Important Voting Dates & Deadlines
|Register to Vote (Early)||October 17th, 2023||Register online here!|
|By Mail (Absentee)||November 6th, 2023||Click here for additional information!|
|In-person (Early)||November 6th, 2023||Find your polling place here!|
|In-person on Election Day||November 7th, 2023||Find your polling place here!|
Accessibility Supports: There are many supports to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to vote.
- You have the right to sign in orally – you have the right to confirm who you are and to ask another person to sign for you if you cannot sign your name.
- Minnesota Polling Place Accessibility ALL polling places must be accessible
- Voter Assistance
- A voter who requires assistance in marking a ballot (due to blindness, disability, or inability to read or write) may be given assistance by a person of the voter’s choice.
- Used to provide privacy and independence for those who cannot use a pen.
- A voter can have their ballot read to them using headphones
- Includes downloadable PDF and links to videos with ASL interpretation.
Election Videos: The Arc Minnesota has some short videos on voting topics that anyone, including self-advocates can utilize to learn about the importance of voting and how to vote. These are nice reviews of commonly asked questions about voting:
- Why Vote
- Voting Rights
- How to Register
- Ways to Vote
Making A Plan to Vote! It is important to make a plan to vote in the upcoming election, regardless of how you plan to vote. Ensure that you have transportation and any support needed to vote. Remind your family, friends and co-workers to vote. Do not give up your opportunity to participate in democracy!