Student Voting Guide | Minnesota

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Minnesota. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.


Minnesota has Election Day registration, but you can also register in advance—in person or by mail—up to 21 days before an election.[1] Minnesota offers online voter registration here, but forms are available online to print and mail. If you register on Election Day, you will need to show proof of address (see section on Identification below).[2] You can also register at the same time as you vote by absentee ballot, if you include a registration form with your absentee ballot and have your ballot witnessed by someone to whom you have shown proof of your address.[3]

You may register to vote[4] and vote in party caucuses[5] if you will be 18 by the time of the general election.  If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact your local election officials.


In Minnesota, residency is defined as the place where the voter’s home is located, from which they have no present intent to move.[6] Residency is determined by “where the individual lives and usually sleeps.”[7] Minnesota law does not require you to have permanent or indefinite intent to remain at a place in order to make it your voting address. 

At School. Students can establish residency in Minnesota if they have a present intention to remain at their Minnesota school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home.[8] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.  The Minnesota Secretary of State has made clear that students may decide if their “primary residence is [their] hometown or [their] campus address.”[9]

At Home. Students who lived in Minnesota prior to attending school and who wish to establish or keep their Minnesota voting residency (i.e., at their parents’ address), should have no problem doing so unless they have already registered to vote in another state.  Like all states, Minnesota allows students to keep their voting residency even if they temporarily move out of the county or state to attend school.  The only way you will lose this residency is if you “abandon” it by asserting residency in a new state.  If you register or vote in another state, you will lose your Minnesota residency.[10]  If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Minnesota with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register at home.

Voting in Minnesota may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents.

Challenges to Residency. Students have the right to cast a ballot as a resident of Minnesota regardless of whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. Your eligibility to vote can be challenged by another voter in your county.[11] The challenge must be in writing, and a hearing must be held.[12] You will receive notice before the hearing.[13] If the challenge is affirmed, you can appeal to the Secretary of State.[14]

Your eligibility to vote can also be challenged on the basis of residency at the polls by another voter, a poll worker, or a partisan challenger, but only based on their personal knowledge.[15]  If you answer questions under oath and swear that you are eligible, you will be allowed to vote a regular ballot unless a poll worker decides that you are ineligible.[16] Remember, any challenge made solely on the basis of your student or tuition status is invalid.


If you are registering at the polls on Election Day, you will need to provide proof of address at your polling place (see list provided below for acceptable proof of address).[17]   

First-time voters who register by mail and whose identifying numbers—i.e., your Minnesota driver’s license number, or non-driver ID card number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number—could not be verified by the state will have to show ID in order to vote (see list provided below of acceptable ID). These voters must either include a photocopy of ID with their mail-in registration form, or show ID at the polls.[18]

Acceptable proof of address and identification includes: a valid Minnesota driver’s license, learner’s permit, non-driver ID card, or a receipt for any of those three that shows your current address; a current student photo ID card (provided your name appears on a housing list your school has provided to the county auditor); a current student fee statement that includes your voting address (you will also need to show a photo ID with this); a tribal identification card that has your current address, signature and picture; prior registration in the same precinct with a former name or address on the roster; or a “Notice of Late Registration” letter.[19] You can also present any of the above IDs, or a U.S. passport, or a U.S. military ID, even if they do not show your current address, as long as you also present a bill (due within 30 days of the election) that does show your current address.[20]  Acceptable bills include those for telephone or cell phone service, television or internet provider services, electric, gas, water, garbage, solid waste, or sewer services.[21] Documents may be displayed on an electronic device like a smartphone.[22] Minnesota also allows for proof of address and identification by voucher, which means that any registered voter in your precinct can vouch for you if they know you live in the election district.[23] This voucher then serves in the place of any other required forms of proof of residency.


Any eligible voter in Minnesota may vote absentee.[24] You must apply to receive an absentee ballot, and applications for absentee ballots are due the day before the election. You can apply online or mail, email, or fax your application,[25] but if you are planning to vote by mail, you should leave enough time for the ballot to be mailed to you and for you to mail it back in time for receipt on Election Day. A blank application is also available on the web site of the Secretary of State. Absentee ballots are available 46 days before an election.[26]

You may return your completed absentee ballot either in person or by mail – or ask someone else to return it for you.[27]  If you return your ballot in person, you must bring it to your local election official’s office before 5 p.m. on the day before the election;[28] a ballot delivered by another person must be submitted before 3 p.m. on Election Day.[29] If you mail in your ballot, it must be received by Election Day.[30]  Your completed ballot also must be witnessed by another registered voter in Minnesota, a notary, or another person who has the authority to administer oaths.[31]  If you are registering at the same time you vote absentee, or if your registration is questioned or incomplete for some reason, you will have to show your witness one of the authorized proofs of address.[32]  If your witness is registered to vote in your precinct, your witness may also vouch for your proof of address.[33]

Early Voting

Minnesota allows for early voting by permitting any eligible voter to vote absentee by mail or in person through Election Day (see Absentee Voting section). You must apply for an absentee ballot and may do so online or by mail, fax, or email. Any absentee ballot submitted by mail must be received by Election Day.[34] Any absentee ballot submitted in person must be received by 5 p.m. if submitted by you or 3 p.m. if submitted on your behalf by someone else.[35]

Last Updated August 15, 2014

[1] Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 201.054, 201.061.

[2]  Minn. Stat. Ann. § 201.161.

[3] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.04(4).

[4] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 201.014.

[5] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 202A.16.

[6] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 200.031(a).

[7] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 200.031(h).

[8] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[9] Voters Who Are College Students, Mn.  Sec’y of State,

[10] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 200.031(d).

[11] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 201.195(1).

[12] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 201.195(1).

[13] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 201.195(1).

[14] Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 201.195(2).

[15] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 204C.12.

[16] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 204C.12.

[17] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 201.061.

[18] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 201.061(1a).

[19] Register on Election Day, Minn. Sec’y of State, (last visited Feb. 21, 2014).  

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 201.061(3)(a)(4).

[24] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.02.

[25] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.04(1).

[26] How to Vote Absentee, Minn. Sec’y of State,

[27] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.08(1).

[28] How to Vote Absentee, Minn. Sec’y of State,

[29] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.08(1).

[30] Id.

[31] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.07(3).

[32] Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.04(4).

[33] See Minn. R. 8210.0600.

[34] Vote Absentee, Minn. Sec’y of State,

[35] How to Vote Absentee, Minn. Sec’y of State,