GUIDING FAMILIES THROUGH THE SEASONS OF LIFE

Voting and Guardianship

Apple pie, baseball and  . . . voting?  Voting is at the heart of our American democratic process. It is, arguably, one of the most important rights and responsibilities that each of us have. Voting allows us to tell our government what we want to see happen, who we want in office and how we feel about certain measures.

Eligibility to vote is determined by each State, with the United States Constitution providing the general framework for areas where the states cannot discriminate (race, color, sex, age for those over 18). 

In Minnesota, to be eligible to vote you must be:

  • A US citizen;
  • 18 years old on election day
  • A resident of Minnesota for 20 days
  • Finished with all parts of any felony sentence

Source: Minnesota Secretary of State website

A person under guardianship specifically retains the right to vote, unless is it explicitly restricted by the Court.  See Minn. Stat. 524.5-120 and 525.5-313( c)(8).  Courts typically only restrict a person’s right to vote when a person is so severely impaired that he or she is unable to express their own preference for a candidate in an election.

District Courts throughout Minnesota differ in whether and to what extent they address the Respondent’s ability to exercise his/her voting rights at the initial establishment hearing.  In some courts, most notably Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Washington County courts, the judicial officer does typically require that voting rights be addressed by the petitioner in the initial appointment hearing.  In the counties that do expect testimony on capacity to vote, the petitioner testifies as to his belief as to whether the respondent has the capacity to make his/her own choice between two candidates in a political process.  Generally, if the petitioner believes the respondent does have the ability to express a preference between two candidates, then the right to vote is retained (and the Order Appointing Guardian so states). In those counties that do not address voting rights in the initial hearing, the Order Appointing Guardian will also typically be silent on the issue, which means by default the person under guardianship then retains the right to vote.

            If the court does restrict the right of a person under guardianship to vote, the court notifies the Minnesota Secretary of State of the identifying information about the person whose voting rights have been restricted and that person is then removed from the list of eligible voters.

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