MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They’re now just a part of voting — those little red stickers we wear to show everyone we did our civic duty.

So, Dale from Red Wing asks: “Who pays for the “I Voted” stickers and where did they come from?” Good Question.

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The Phoenix Association of Realtors says it came up with the idea in 1985, but Time Magazine reports stickers appearing in Florida three years before.

In 1987, Janet Boudreau, then-President of Intab, an election supply company, says she remembers local printers making small batches of “I Voted” stickers in two counties in Washington State. She says the stickers were red and black with Xs and check marks.

“I thought a flag was the most patriotic symbol we had and it was a matter of fitting that on a small sticker,” Boudreau says. “I wanted to advertise voting.”

In early 1988, Intab was selling its election supplies, including its “I Voted” stickers in five states. By late 1988, it had expanded to all fifty.

“We made over 1000 products, but the only one I’m known for is the “I Voted” sticker,” says Boudreau.

In the early 1990s, Boudreau spoke to state Secretaries of State about the stickers. That was around the time then-Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Growe heard about the popularity of “I Voted” stickers in other states.

According to Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky, Growe came to him when he was working in her office as the State Elections Manager. She asked him to bring the stickers to Minnesota.

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“I thought to myself I think this is the craziest idea I’ve ever heard,” says Mansky. “Who wants to walk around with one of these dumb stickers, but when my boss tells me to do something I do it.”

In 1989, the Minnesota legislature passed a law that said the “secretary of state distribute stickers to the county auditors which contain the words “I Voted” and nothing more…” It goes on to say election judges can offer that sticker to voters at the polling place.

According to an article from the Star Tribune in 1990, the Secretary of State’s office printed two million “I Voted” stickers to be distributed on Election Day.

Mansky remembers noticing many people wearing them on his lunch break in downtown St. Paul.

“So I went back to talk with Joan and said you were right and I was wrong,” Mansky says.

These days, every state’s sticker is different. In Ohio, it’s a play on the I Love NY theme. In Georgia, the sticker shows a peach. In Minnesota, it’s red with white lettering, which Mansky says has nothing to do with politics.

“It’s red because I learned as a college student taking physics that red is the easiest color for humans to see,” Mansky says.

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In 2018, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office bought 6.5 million “I Voted” stickers to distribute to Minnesota counties. According to Ben Petok, spokesperson for Secretary of State Steve Simon, that cost $24,000 or 0.37 cents per sticker. The stickers are printed and shipped by MinnCor Industries.

Heather Brown