Minnesota kicks ass at voting.
This indisputable fact is backed up by statistics: Leading up to 2014, Minnesota had led the nation in voter turnout in nine consecutive elections, often hovering at or above 75 percent, including an American record of 78 percent in 2004, according to MinnPost. (By comparison, turnout across the country that year was 56 percent; even that was up 5 percent from the 2000 election.)
But being enthusiastic doesn't make you an expert, and the laws on voting are constantly changing. Sometimes it's because someone wants to make it easier for people to get to the polls; other times, it's the opposite.
City Pages spoke about how voting laws work with Julia Dayton Klein, a principal at the Gray Plant Mooty law firm, and a volunteer election judge for several cycles running.
And, obligatory: "I'm not related to [Gov.] Mark Dayton."
Dayton Klein's answers arrive just in time to clear up some of the questions the average voter might have always wondered about, but been too afraid to ask.
City Pages: How does one become an election judge?
Julia Dayton Klein: You've got a few different paths to it. You can call your local political party to inquire about an application, or you can inquire with the Secretary of State's office. Or you can talk to your county election office, usually the county auditor is the one you would talk to. And it's a paid position. You fill out an application, and disclose your party affiliation, so they try to balance out who's identified with each party.
CP: What are your duties, and what is your authority as a judge?
Dayton Klein: You've got some pretty broad authority and powers within the polling place. You've got different levels of people who are judges. There's a head judge, and then different people under that who report to them. Generally your job is to make sure people who are eligible to vote, vote, and people who are not eligible to vote, don't vote.
CP: Vouching for a fellow voter is something a lot of people are sort of familiar with, but might not be fully informed of the law. How does that work?
Dayton Klein: Vouching, depending on where you sit from a policy perspective, is either a really nice thing to allow voter access, or is a terrible thing, and allows for rampant voter fraud. The general idea is, this is for somebody who's not pre-registered to vote, and is walking into the polling place. So they need to do same-day registration -- which is kind of a nice thing in Minnesota, and doesn't exist in some other states. But this person doesn't have sufficient ID to register them. Say they don't have a drivers license, or their drivers license is expired, and they don't have a utility bill to show their current address.
Somebody who is already a registered voter in that precinct can vouch for that person, saying -- and they have to go under oath, under a sworn affidavit -- and say they know personally this person for whom they're vouching lives in the precinct, and should be allowed to vote. This year, they've limited the number of people you can vouch for to eight people. There was a bit of a concern that there are people who are vouching for everybody. There's a little bit of a random exception, if you're a staffer of a residential facility, like a nursing home. That staff member can vouch for an unlimited number of residents living within that facility.
CP: Say someone wants to yell "Fuck Trump!" or "Lock her up!" just before or after they vote. What's allowed for speech inside the polling place?
Dayton Klein: This is kind of a cool question in a way, because you've got the intersection of the First Amendment, and also the sanctity of the voting place. You can't say who you intend to vote for, or who you just voted for. So, "F Trump," that's not saying who you voted for, or "Lock her up" wouldn't say which way you voted. There's also the idea that you can't do any political campaigning within 100 feet of a polling place. The question becomes, is that campaigning in a way? Are you trying to influence people?
The final one is, you just can't be disruptive in the polling place. You can't start a bunch of nonsense. If it's a certain kind of disruptive behavior, that election judge can ask the sergeant at arms to kick that person out of the polling place, if they're being disruptive or trying to intimidate other people. If there's no one there, they can call the cops.
But you know, it's America. If it doesn't rise to those levels of conduct, you're free to speak your mind.
CP: People know you can't go marching into the voting site with a campaign sign. What about a T-shirt? Can someone wear a Hillary or Trump shirt while they vote for them?
Dayton Klein: You can't. That would be considered campaigning within the voting place. People don't know that rule, so it can seem pretty innocuous to have your button, or your "Make America Great Again" hat on. Usually an election judge can just ask the person to turn the shirt inside out, put a jacket over the shirt, take the button off, put the hat in your pocket, just don't have it visible in the polling place.
CP: The beloved Justin Timberlake doing a selfie in the voting booth raised the question of whether that's legal, and if so, how. What's allowed?
Dayton Klein: The answer is yeah, you can take a picture of yourself while you're voting. You can even take a picture of your ballot. Now, there's a law that says you can't tell people who you're about to vote for, or who you just voted for [while you're in the polling place]. The question becomes, if you post that [photo] while you're still in the polling place, is that telling people who you voted for? I've been telling folks, as your unofficial election judge, it's fine if you want to take a photo. Just wait until you're outside to post it, and it's perfectly legal, it's fine.
CP: Is someone allowed to take out their phone and videotape something happening in their polling place if they think they're documenting something important?
Dayton Klein: You can't. You can't video somebody in a polling place for the purposes of trying to figure out who's there, or how they're voting. It's kind of an old-school concept about "list-making," where people tried to figure out who people were voting for, so you could do things like reward them with a job if they voted for your favored party. You're not allowed to take video of other people in the polling place because that gets construed of trying to track who's there. But you can do it of yourself, because you can make that decision for yourself.
CP: What's the mandatory thing someone's boss or company must do to allow people a chance to vote?
Dayton Klein: This is new. They have to give you time off to vote on election day. And they can't restrict your pay because of it, and they can't discipline you for voting that day. You've got the right to take time off without losing your pay, personal leave, or vacation time. But you can only take so much time as you need to vote. The idea is, it's not reasonable for you to say, "It took me all day to vote." But can they limit it to 15 minutes? Probably not. It's however it's reasonably long it took to vote that day. And if your employer does violate that, they can be found guilty of a misdemeanor. You can file a complaint with your county attorney if you feel your employer violated your right to do that.
CP: Hopefully this year's lines aren't really long, but sometimes they are. If you can tell getting through the line is going to take an hour, but you've only got 10 minutes, can you jump in line?
Dayton Klein: Oh sure. I've actually seen that a lot. If someone's in a hurry, if they've got young children who are starting to lose it, or they've got somewhere they need to be, I've seen people be generous with that and say, "Yeah, you can go in front of me." Now I don't think you can force your way through the line. But if your friends and neighbors want to let you do "cutsies," that's OK.
CP: Say you voted early, as a lot of people did, and you decide on Election Day you want to change your vote. Can you do that? Or, if on Election Day, you voted, and somehow decide moments later you made a mistake, how do you fix a ballot that's already submitted.
Dayton Klein: It is a little bit complicated. Minnesota is pretty unique there because of how this goes. I'll go with the easy one first, and the hard one second. On Election Day, if you think you screwed up your ballot before you've put it into the counting machine, you can ask the election judge to spoil your ballot, and they'll tear it up and you'll get a new one. If you've already put it in the counting machine I don't know there's a way you can spoil it and start over. You might be stuck.
Now, if you voted early already or voted absentee, it's too late now to change your vote. You can ask to cancel your ballot until the close of business one week before election day. Then you could have a new ballot mailed to you or vote at a polling place, but it's too late to do that now, this year.
CP: Say someone thinks they submitted a ballot absentee, and then on Election Day they think "Oh shit, did I do that right?" Can they find out if their vote is in, and is getting counted?
Dayton Klein: The Secretary of State has actually a good, slick website for that. You enter in your name, and the information you submitted to get your absentee... and it kicks back to you whether your absentee ballot has been accepted by the Secretary of State's website. Actually I did that for myself, because I voted early, and wanted to see if it was accepted. If you have that "Oh no" moment, you can look it up there.
And if you try to go in on Election Day, and you already voted absentee or voted early. The Secretary of State keeps the voting rosters pretty darn up to date. If you voted early or absentee, there'll be an "AB" next to your name, which tells the election judge you've already voted. You'll be challenged, and you'll have to go under oath with the election judge, and swear it wasn't you who voted absentee. If you swear up and down you didn't vote absentee, and you can prove you are who you say you are, they can let you vote on Election Day, and they'll spoil the one that was an absentee ballot.
So, I guess, functionally, that is a way to change your vote on Election Day. But you'll have to lie to the election judge to do it. Under oath. And regardless of what certain people think about voter fraud, and people lying to election judges, in America, we decide that under oath matters.
CP: We've saved the question most tailored to a City Pages audience for last. Can you vote if you're drunk or high?
Dayton Klein: The statute says the election judge can prevent someone from voting who is obviously intoxicated. And you can't bring booze into the polling place. You might want to, but you can't. Probably an election judge would take being high as being intoxicated, but, I dare to say, there's nothing in the law that says that specifically.
But if someone is clearly under the influence of drugs, that might be considered disorderly behavior, and they would remove you from the polling place. I think a reasonable election judge would take the broader reading, and say it also applies to being stoned. So, just drink after you vote.