By: Terriann Thommes, Director of Advocacy and Volunteer Resources

It’s that time of year… a time to get informed, exercise our rights and to encourage our sisters, brothers, daughters, sons and people we serve and volunteer with to VOTE!  Of course, it is neither ethical nor our place to sway or influence a vulnerable individual’s stance on politics in any way.  Hammer is a non-profit, and as such, we are very careful to be non-partisan and seek only to promote causes that promote the well-being of the individuals we serve. We educate and provide opportunities to get involved and informed, but it is unethical for us to influence.

Find Your Polling Place

Dates for voting in Minnesota are August 9th for State Primaries, and November 8th for the General Election. You can pre-register to vote, or register on the day of at your polling place.

It’s important to know your rights as a voter.
The law requires that the rights of voters with disabilities be protected. See below, an excerpt from the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division under the Disabilities Act: Protecting the Rights of Voters with Disabilities

“Voting is one of our nation’s most fundamental rights and a hallmark of our democracy. Yet for too long, many people with disabilities have been excluded from this core aspect of citizenship.  People with intellectual or mental health disabilities have been prevented from voting because of prejudicial assumptions about their capabilities.  People who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids, such as walkers, have been unable to enter the polling place to cast their ballot because there was no ramp.  People who are blind or have low vision could not votecast their vote because the ballot was completely inaccessible to them.

Important federal civil rights laws were enacted to combat such forms of discrimination and protect the fundamental right to vote for all Americans. This document provides guidance to states, local jurisdictions, election officials, poll workers, and voters on how the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws help ensure fairness in the voting process for people with disabilities.”

Here is what you can (or should) expect at the polls.
The following is taken from the MN secretary of state website: Get more information on Polling Place Accessibility from their website.

Minimum requirements for accessibility include:

– At least one set of doors must have a minimum width of 32 inches if the doors must be used to enter or leave the polling place.
– Any curb adjacent to the main entrance to a polling place must have curb cuts or temporary ramps. Where the main entrance is not the accessible entrance, any curb adjacent to the accessible entrance must also have curb cuts or temporary ramps.
– Where the main entrance is not the accessible entrance, a sign shall be posted at the main entrance giving directions to the accessible entrance.
– At least one set of stairs must have a temporary handrail and ramp if stairs must be used to enter or leave the polling place.
– No barrier in the polling place may impede the path of persons with disabilities to the voting booth.
– At least one parking space for persons with disabilities, which may be temporarily so designated by the municipality for the day of the election, must be available near the accessible entrance.
– The doorway, handrails, ramps, and handicapped parking must conform to the standards specified in the state building code for accessibility by persons with disabilities.

voting-genericA local official can only choose polling places that meet these standards, unless no available place within a precinct is accessible or can be made accessible.

Report a problem
Cities and towns choose polling place locations and are responsible for polling place accessibility. Contact your city or township clerk if a polling place is not accessible.

Need Additional Accommodations?
There are many ways for you to get help to vote. Election judges are at the polling place to answer questions throughout the process. You can bring a friend/staff/family member to help. There are even machines that allow “curbside voting”, allowing you to mark your ballot from your car if accessibility is a concern. More information on additional accommodations.

For more information or help with voting, contact Terriann at 952-277-2427.