Polling Place Rules and Etiquette

Guidelines to help the election process go smoothly.

Hopkins got some unwanted attention during the 2008 presidential election.

An elderly Somali woman who spoke little English had her name on a list of registered voters, but an election judge started questioning her right to vote. The judge asked how the woman got her citizenship when she couldn’t speak English.

The judge was overstepping her authority. Judges aren’t allowed to withhold a ballot because they think a registered voter couldn’t read it, and they’re not supposed to use a person’s language to question citizenship.

In this case, the situation turned out OK. Other voters in line demanded that the judge let the woman vote, and the judge relented. Then-City Clerk Terry Obermaier said the judge would be allowed to return to the position.

Such polling place confrontations are rare—but not unheard of. A disagreement about a referendum in Richfield during the 2011 election led to a heated confrontation between a judge and a voter.

In order to prevent these and other Election Day hiccups, the Secretary of State has compiled a list of frequently asked questions about polling place rules. Here is a selection.


Q: Can I bring my child with me when I vote on Election Day?

A: Yes. A voter may bring their children with them to a polling place and the children may go with the parent into the voting booth.

Q: May I bring a sample ballot from my political party or the newspaper into my polling place?

A: Yes. Voters may bring a sample ballot from a newspaper or campaign flyer into the voting booth, as long as they take great care to conceal the material from other voters while outside the voting booth and take it with them when they leave.

Q: Can I wear a campaign button or shirt to my polling place in Minnesota?

A: No. Minnesota law clearly prohibits the displaying of campaign materials at or near all polling locations. The Office of the Secretary of State strongly encourages all voters to remove any campaign buttons, t-shirts, etc. before arriving at the polls. Election judges will inform all voters displaying campaign material to conceal or remove it, which may mean taking off a button, zipping up a coat and keeping it zipped, or going into the bathroom to turn a t-shirt inside out.  Read more about Protecting Election Integrity.

Q: Can someone's right to vote be challenged because of his or her physical appearance or accent?

A: No. Challengers cannot challenge a voter’s registration simply on a whim. Challengers must have personal knowledge that the voter is not eligible to vote and must sign an oath attesting to the validity of their claim.  See the fact sheet Challenges and Vouching Must be Based upon Personal Knowledge! for more information.


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