Election Judges Being Told Not to Inform Voters About How Amendments are Counted

Written by Jeff Kolb.

MNGOP's Janet Beihoffer sends along this alarming bit of information:

Issue: some Election Judges are being told they cannot explain that a blank vote on the amendments is an automatic “NO” vote. Other counties are requiring EJs to read the amendment instructions.

Yep, you read that right. In some areas, Election Judges are being told that they are not allowed to explain to voters how the voting process works.

I have confirmed that Election Judges in the City of Crystal were given this instruction at their training. 

What is not clear is where this direction ultimately came from.  Who believes that it is improper for an Election Judge to honestly and accurately inform a voter about how the process works?

Janet offers this advice to Election Judges out there:

Recommendation: Read the directions to the voters. If stopped, reference Minnesota Statute 201.27, Subd. 1 which says, “No officer, deputy, clerk or other employee shall intentionally…fail to perform or enforce any of the provisions of this chapter (to enforce election laws)… An individual who violates this subdivision is guilty of a felony.

From the Secretary of State website: Q: Is it true that if I don’t vote on a constitutional amendment, it is the same as a “no” vote? A: Yes, that is true. Constitutional amendments by law must be passed by a majority of all of the voters who vote on Election Day. Therefore, if you don’t vote on this question, the effect is the same as a “no” vote.

The Demonstration Judge (pp. 30, 21 of the 2012 Election Judge Guide) must remain impartial but is expected to explain how votes are counted. The 2012 Guide does not say anything about the specific constitutional amendments, it would be good practice to inform the voters of the guidance provided by the Secretary of State. Thus, when you point to the area of the ballot containing the two constitutional amendments, the Demonstration Judge should either read the instructions and the amendments OR say the underlined phrase above.