A new law passed during the 2023 legislative session included many changes to elections administration policy of which cities should be aware.
The Legislature passed several laws related to elections administration, contained in Chapter 62, that cities should be aware of including changes to pre-election, election day, and post-election requirements.
Pre-election day changes
Designating polling places
An annual ordinance/resolution designating polling places is no longer required by Dec. 31 if there have been no changes to the designated polling places. Note that Minnesota Statutes, section 205A.11 requires an annual resolution by Dec. 31 for combined polling places for school district standalone elections. This remains unchanged.
A city or town that establishes or withdraws from participation in a combined polling place under Minnesota Statutes, section 204B.14 must provide notice to the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State (OSS).
Candidates must provide a nongovernment issued email address on the affidavit of candidacy or attest that they do not have an email address.
Candidates can now request that their residence be classified as private data if the candidate has a reasonable fear in regard to their safety or the safety of their family. The candidate must provide their residential address to the filing officer to be kept privately. For any offices where the residency requirement must be satisfied by the close of the filing period and where the candidate has requested that their address be classified as private data, the filing officer must, within one day, determine whether the address provided is within the boundaries of the district represented by the office.
The OSS will update the affidavit of candidacy form and circulate to counties electronically as soon as it is available. Old affidavit of candidacy forms can no longer be used.
Multiple affidavits of candidacy are now permitted if running for the offices of school board member and town board supervisor, as long as the town is not “exercising the powers of a statutory city under [Minnesota Statutes], section 368.01 or an applicable special law.” Judges are prohibited from filing if they will reach the age of 70 prior to the date they would take office.
A petition cannot be rejected only for the reason that it is printed on 8.5-by-14-inch paper or smaller. This change is effective the day following final enactment.
Published notice to voters (replacing sample ballot for publication)
Counties and municipalities are no longer required to publish a sample ballot. The new law requires the creation of a notice to voters. The OSS will work with stakeholders to design the format and content of the notice.
This notice must include:
- A statement that the voter’s official ballot will have the names of all candidates for the voter’s precinct.
- The web address where a voter may view the voter’s sample ballot based on the voter’s address.
- The county’s website where a list of sample ballots for each county precinct may be viewed.
- How a voter may obtain a free copy of a sample ballot specific to the voter’s address.
- Contact information for the appropriate local election official, including a phone number and email address.
The notice may include information about:
- Contests on the ballot.
- Names, offices, and party affiliation, if any, of candidates.
- Polling place locations.
- Poll hours.
- Absentee voting information.
The notice to voters must also be published as a full page in at least one newspaper of general circulation in the county.
- For the state primary election, the county auditor must publish this notice at least one week before the election.
- For the state general election, the county auditor must publish this notice no earlier than 20 days and no later than 10 days before the state general election.
- For municipal elections, the municipal clerk must publish this notice at least two weeks before the election.
This change is effective Dec. 1, 2023, (or earlier if a notice is approved by the OSS sooner than that date).
Translated example ballots
Session Laws 2023, Chapter 34, article 2, section 1 required that the OSS provide sample ballots to county auditors in the three most commonly spoken languages. This is now amended to change that requirement to translate example ballots into the three most commonly spoken languages.
The intent with this amendment is that the OSS will prepare the translated example ballots, which counties can then provide to translators to assist in preparing sample ballots for any precincts where translation is required.
Rotation of candidate names
Candidates in partisan contests will now be rotated according to the same “Minnesota rotation formula” as nonpartisan contests. The order will no longer be based on party vote share in the previous election. The only exception is the office of president and vice president, which will be ordered based on party vote share for major political parties, followed by candidates who filed by petition to be ordered by lot.
All nonpartisan offices on back of primary ballots
The law has been updated to clarify that all nonpartisan offices must appear on the back side of the ballot for the state primary election.
Preliminary and public accuracy testing
All equipment must now be tested at least three days prior to when the equipment is used. For direct balloting, which now starts 18 days before the election, testing for those pieces of equipment must be completed at least 21 days prior to election day. The same will apply to any equipment being used by ballot boards to pre-tabulate absentee ballots prior to election day.
Challenges prior to election day
The new law creates a notice, hearing, and appeals process for a registered voter to challenge another voter’s eligibility prior to election day. The challenge petition must provide facts supporting the challenge and a challenge can only contain the name of a single person. Lists with multiple names will not be acceptable. Challenges must be filed at least 45 days prior to election day, with limited exceptions.
Post secondary voter education requirements
There are now additional requirements for postsecondary institutions to provide a voter registration form in both the spring and fall. In a state election year, it must be provided 15 days in advance of the deadline for registering. If it is sent electronically, the communication must be exclusively devoted to voter registration.
Election day changes
Trainee election judges
16- or 17-year-old election judges who have graduated high school before they turn 18 remain eligible to serve as trainee election judges.
Election judge misconduct
Election judges can now be removed at any time by the county auditor or municipal clerk for malfeasance, neglect, or misconduct.
Challengers prohibited from certain actions
Challengers must only submit a challenge in writing to an election judge. The election judge must be the one to administer the challenge questions to the voter. The challenger must not converse with the voter.
This list of who may vouch for another resident on election day is expanded to include assisted living staff members. Employees of residential facilities have previously been able to serve as a voucher, and now the definition of a residential facility is expanded to include adult foster and residential treatment programs.
Residential housing list and student IDs for election day registration
Every postsecondary institution that accepts state financial aid must prepare a list of students enrolled in the institution and residing in the institution’s housing and in the city or cities in which the campus is situated. The list must be provided to the county auditor no sooner than 20 days prior to the election.
The county auditor must provide the list and instructions to election judges in the precinct. The county auditor shall notify all postsecondary educational institutions in the county of this requirement.
Prohibition on campaigning near polling places
The law has been updated to comply with the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled the prior prohibition on political paraphernalia to be overly broad. The new law prohibits wearing, exhibiting, or distributing any item that displays:
- The name, likeness, logo, or slogan of a candidate who appears on the ballot.
- The number, title, subject, slogan, or logo of a ballot question that appears on the ballot.
- The name, logo, or slogan of a political party represented by a candidate on the ballot.
The law clarifies that these prohibitions apply only during voting hours. They also apply during the absentee/early voting periods, to include the polling place and “within 100 feet of the room in which a polling place is situated, to the extent practicable.” These changes are effective June 15, 2023.
Electronic rosters (poll books)
Voters are now allowed to sign electronically when electronic rosters are used. Election day registration (EDR) and voter signature certificates with the electronic signature must be printed at the time of the transaction. Additionally, for mail balloting and absentee/early voting, electronic rosters containing voter data from multiple precincts may be loaded onto a single electronic roster.
Providing assistance to voters
The law has been updated to reflect guidance on providing assistance to voters in the wake of an April 2020 consent decree in Thao v. Simon. The three-person limit on the number of voters that any person can assist in an election has been removed, along with the prohibition on candidates providing assistance.
Summary statements must include the number of election judges and the number of voting booths used in that precinct on election day. In addition, if an alternate ballot format is used, the number of voted ballots using that format must also be reported.
Post-election day changes
Write-in vote counting
Cities can now adopt a resolution requiring that either:
- Write-in candidates submit a request in order to have their individual votes tallied.
- Write-in candidates will only have their individual votes tallied if the total number of write-in votes for the contest is greater than or equal to the fewest number of votes cast for a non-write-in candidate.
A township, school district, or other election district may also adopt a resolution requiring that write-in candidates will only have their individual votes tallied if the total number of write-in votes for the contest is greater than or equal to the fewest number of votes cast for a non-write-in candidate. Contact League staff for a model resolution.
Additionally, for precincts using optical scan ballots, write-in votes must be marked in the oval or other target shape opposite the blank when a voter writes an individual’s name on the line provided in order for the write-in vote to be counted.
Ballot images in recounts
Canvassing boards are now authorized to require that a recount official publish images of ballots that are challenged during a recount.