Amber Stavig grew up in Lake of the Woods County, near the Canadian border, and worked in the community as an attorney before moving to the Twin Cities.
So naturally, community members turned to her for legal advice when a problem cropped up: the city of Baudette was moving its polling location for the Aug. 11 primary to the VFW bar and restaurant to accommodate social distancing during the pandemic.
The only problem: A provision in the law prohibits a polling site from being “in any place where intoxicating liquors or nonintoxicating malt beverages are served or in any adjoining room.”
“There are people who are extremely uncomfortable entering a liquor establishment to do their voting,” Stavig said.
She e-mailed the Secretary of State’s Office about the issue, which acknowledged the law prohibits voting in any place that serves alcohol. But during the ongoing pandemic, counties have been given more latitude to find a polling place that’s safe for voters.
Baudette Mayor Rick Rone said the VFW was the only suitable location in the city limits that provided enough space for social distancing, and the bar doesn’t plan to serve alcohol in the building on primary day.
But Stavig said she’s still frustrated. “All cities deserve to know their election laws are being followed, even the ones six hours from the Capitol.”