Following news about mass voter challenge schemes in other states, such as Michigan, you may be wondering how voter challenges work and who is at risk of being challenged. Minnesota has strict laws about voter challenges, which are described below. If you are worried about being challenged, you can bring a photo ID card showing your address, or any of the other information that is needed for same-day voter registration.
Other voters and election judges are allowed to challenge a voter, based on their personal knowledge of the voter. For example, a voter might be challenged because they work in the precinct but do not live there.
The challenger must fill out a form stating the reason for the challenge, and then sign the statement under oath.
The voter who has been challenged will then be asked regarding the challenge. Failure to submit to questioning will result in the person’s forfeiting of the right to vote.
After the person is questioned, they are either deemed able to vote, and they can vote, or they are deemed ineligible and their ballot is placed with the spoiled ballots.
The practice of challenging exists to weed out voter fraud, like people voting in districts where they do not reside, but marginalized groups might worry about bogus challenges keeping them from voting.
Political parties and candidates sometimes appoint “challengers” in certain districts to watch the polling place. According to the Secretary of State’s website, they can only challenge votes “based on personal knowledge”. The law also states that appointed challengers may NOT:
• handle or inspect registration cards, files, or lists;
• prepare in any manner any list of individuals who have or have not voted;
• attempt to influence voting in any manner;
• talk with a voter except to determine, in the presence of an election judge, if the voter is eligible to vote in the precinct; or
• compile lists of voters to challenge on the basis of mail sent by a political party that was returned as undeliverable, or if receipt by the intended recipient was not acknowledged in the case of registered mail;
• Take pictures within the polling place;
• Go within 6 feet of the ballot counter.
Katie Mocol is a journalism student at Hamline University and an intern with the Twin Cities Daily Planet.