Monday, October 13, 2008

Follow up on foreclosures

In response to our post calling on Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to help educate voters and election officials, we received a very informative note back from his office that has some all-around wonderful information about how all of us can make sure that we get to cast our ballots. Remember, here in Minnesota you can register at the polls on election day if you meet the qualifications.

First, the Office of the Secretary of State is aware of the allegations made in Michigan that mortgage foreclosure lists could potentially be used to challenge voters at the polls on Election Day.

This office's Election Judge Guide and 2008 Campaign Manual do not reference this issue specifically because these publications were printed before allegations in Michigan emerged. However, this office is currently working with local election officials (who are responsible for recruiting and training poll workers) to ensure appropriate training on this issue.

Second, In Minnesota, all voters must identify their residential address before they can vote in an election. They must provide this information when pre-registering to vote in advance of an election or when registering to vote on Election Day.

The fact that a home may be in foreclosure is not sufficient evidence that homeowners no longer reside at their address. The act of home foreclosure is a drawn-out process. An entire foreclosure procedure can take at least 8½ months from start to finish and may take even longer if homeowners pursue legal action. Voters may continue to reside at their property and still have rights to their property for some time during foreclosure. In fact, homeowners are allowed to live in their homes for at least 6 months after a sheriff's sale.

Third, no one can legally challenge the registration of a voter in a precinct simply because he or she knows a voter's property is in foreclosure. State law requires that challengers must have personal knowledge that an individual is not eligible to vote, which in this case would be personal knowledge that the individual does not reside in the precinct. To bring a challenge, a challenger would have to personally know that a voter has indeed vacated their residence-through either a voluntary move or eviction proceeding-and the voter does not intend to return. Only upon this basis can a challenger then legally commence a challenge to a voter's residency and sign a sworn statement under oath that he or she has personal knowledge that the individual in question is not eligible to vote in the precinct, in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, section 204C.12.

Voters who vacate their property in foreclosure with no intention of returning to that residence must not vote from that address. To do so is a felony. Instead, they must vote from where they currently reside. Minnesota law allows voters to vote from their current residence, even if they just moved there, as long as they have resided in Minnesota for 20 days. Minnesota does allow for Election Day registration for voters who can provide proof of residence when they arrive at their polling location.

To prove residency, voters can provide one of the following:

* A valid Minnesota Driver's License, a learner's permit, a Minnesota ID card, or a receipt for any of these containing a valid address in the precinct
* A student ID card including a photo, provided that the college issuing the ID has given a student housing list to election officials
* A tribal ID card that contains a voter's name, photo, signature, and address in the precinct
* A valid registration in the same precinct under a different name or address
* A note of late registration that was sent to the vote by his or her county auditor or city clerk
* A voter registered in the same precinct who can vouch as to a citizen's residency within the precinct
* An authorized employee of a residential facility (such as a homeless shelter, nursing home, or battered women's shelter) who can confirm a voters address with a signed oath (the residential facility must provide a list of employees to election officials).

Alternately, voters may provide a photo ID from the first list below and a bill in their name at their current residence from the second list below:

Types of Photo IDs:
* Minnesota Driver's License
* Minnesota ID Card
* United States Passport
* United State Military ID
* Minnesota University or Technical College ID
* Tribal ID card

Types of Bills, due within 30 days of the election:
* Gas
* Electric
* Telephone
* Cell phone
* TV (Cable or Satellite)
* Water
* Solid Waste
* Sewer Services
* Internet Services
* Student Fee Statement
* Rent statement with itemized utilities

Finally, the Office of the Secretary of State is committed to ensuring that all eligible Minnesotans who want to vote are able to cast a ballot on Election Day. This office will be providing the counties with information regarding the inability of challengers to contest a voter's eligibility based solely on foreclosed property.

Thanks to the Secretary of State's office for this handy information. Please note that student registration at the polls can also be done if the student has a current student ID and the college or university has submitted lists of those living in on-campus housing to election officials. This allows those living in dorms (where utility bills might not be available) to register and vote.

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