Minnesota: Documenting Your Vote (2008)

NOTE: The information on this page was current as of the 2008 presidential elections, and might not be accurate for later elections. We are retaining this page for historical purposes only. For information related to the 2012 election, visit our revised state-by-state guide.

Minnesota Statutes § 204C.06 regulates the activities you can engage in at a Minnesota polling place. Subsection (1) says:

An individual shall be allowed to go to and from the polling place for the purpose of voting without unlawful interference. No one except an election official or an individual who is waiting to register or to vote shall stand within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place. The entrance to a polling place is the doorway or point of entry leading into the room or area where voting is occurring.

If you're thinking of bringing a camera or video recorder to the polls in Minnesota to document your own voting experience or you're planning on interviewing fellow voters outside the polls, you should keep this statute in mind.  Unless a recent legal challenge to the statute brought by large media organizations succeeds, you'll want to stay clear of the 100 foot zone except when you're in the process of voting or waiting in line to vote.  So, if interviewing is your thing, definitely don't try to interview voters inside the polling place or right outside the polling place door. The statute also appears to prohibit taking photographs or shooting video within the 100 foot zone, if you're not in the process of voting (because it would require you to "stand" there).

In addition, Section 204.06(2) of the Minnesota Statutes may prohibit you from using a cell phone camera or other recording device within the polling place itself, even if your purpose is just to document your own voting experience.  It says: 

Except for these representatives, election judges, sergeants-at-arms, and challengers, an individual may remain inside the polling place during voting hours only while voting or registering to vote, providing proof of residence for an individual who is registering to vote, or assisting a disabled voter or a voter who is unable to read English. During voting hours no one except individuals receiving, marking, or depositing ballots shall approach within six feet of a voting booth, unless lawfully authorized to do so by an election judge.

This section doesn't expressly prohibit the use of a camera or recording device, but it also doesn't include it in the permissible activities for which an individual may remain inside the polling place (voting, registering, providing proof of residence, or assisting a disabled voter), or those activities for which an individual may go near the voting booths (receiving, marking, or depositing ballots).

We contacted the Minnesota Secretary of State's office regarding this question.  A state  official wrote the following in an email:

While there is no state or federal law that strictly prohibits the use of cameras or other video equipment in the polling place to record an individual's own voting experience, the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State strongly discourages voters from using cameras or video recorders in the polling place for the following reasons:

Voters have a right to privacy-both as to how an individual has voted as well as whether or not an individual has voted. Either or both of these could be compromised by pictures or video. In addition, other voters' objections to being photographed could lead to disruptions within the polling place.

We are expecting record turnout this year, which means that there may be lines and polling places may be crowded. Voters have a right to take the time they need to vote, but should not take extra time to take pictures.

In addition, sections 204C.17 and 204C.18 of the Minnesota Statutes prohibit voters from showing their marked ballot to others.  According to the same official, taking photographs or video of your own marked ballot could violate this prohibition.

If you want to contact Minnesota election officials directly to clarify how any or all of these provisions may impact your Election Day activities, please use the contact information below:

Update:  On October 15, 2008, a federal district court in Minnesota issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting state officials from enforcing — on November 4, 2008 — the second sentence of Minn. Stat. § 204C.06 against the plaintiff media companies who brought the lawsuit challenging the statute.  Because the injunction only applies to the exit-polling activities of the media companies that filed suit, it is not clear how this affects the ability of non-affiliated journalists to interview voters or engage in other activities within the 100-foot zone.


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