Misinformation about voting is everywhere this year. Despite that, voting has never been easier in Minnesota.
Each state, not the federal government, sets up voting rules. Some states encourage voting by mail. For example, Oregon mails a ballot to every registered voter, as there is no in-person voting. Vote-by-mail has been Oregon’s only voting for 22 years.
Some states limit absentee or mail voting. In Texas, you can only vote by mail if you are unable to vote in person. If you are afraid of long lines and crowded polling places in Texas: tough luck! That’s your only option.
Registering to Vote in Minnesota
Minnesota has both voting by mail and in-person voting. The first step for either is to register to vote. To register, you must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old by Election Day, November 3. You must be a resident of Minnesota for 20 days before Election Day. If you have been convicted of a felony, you must finish any probation, parole, or supervised release. As soon as you finish (once you are ‘off-paper’), you can vote.
You can register to vote online, by mail, or at the polling place. If you are not sure whether you are registered, you can check your registration online. If you have moved since your last voted, you can update your registration online, by mail, or at the polling place.
The Minnesota Secretary of State and county election offices administer voting and elections. Just go to mnvotes.org for official information from the Secretary of State. That website also has information about registering and voting in special situations:
- I’m a college student
- I’m in the military or living abroad
- I have a criminal record
- I’m under guardianship or have an impairment
- I’m in a nursing home or hospital
- I fear for my personal safety
- I’m in a residential facility
- I’m moving on or close to Election Day
- I’m living temporarily in Minnesota
- I’m homeless
- My home is in foreclosure
- My home was destroyed
Voting by Mail
A mail ballot is the same thing as an absentee ballot in Minnesota. Any voter can request a mail ballot online or by mailing an application. There is a special application for military and overseas voters. Minnesota began mailing ballots on Friday, September 18. By then, over one million requests for absentee ballots had been made.
Minnesota has 3,000 polling places and about 3 million voters. More people voting by mail means shorter lines on Election Day. Secretary of State Steve Simon announced that his office will mail an absentee ballot application to all registered voters. The application is not the same as a ballot—voters still have to fill out the application and return it to receive their ballot.
You can vote by mail as soon as you receive your ballot. Your returned ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day—November 3, 2020. Your ballot must be received by your county by November 10. Vote early to allow time for the ballot to get there!
You may also drop off your ballot envelope in person before Election Day. Each county has its own locations and rules for in-person drop-offs. You may not drop your ballot off at your polling place on Election Day. Check your county’s rules to find out where to go.
What If I Make A Mistake?
What if you forget to sign the ballot envelope? Or if put your ballot in the big envelope, instead of the smaller one? Take a deep breath. Minnesota’s goal is to count every vote. Under a new law, if a ballot is rejected, the voter must be contacted and given an opportunity for a do-over.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon told the Minnesota Reformer: “Spoiled ballots do not equal spoiled votes; a majority of voters whose ballots were rejected successfully do the do-over.”
If you want to change your vote, you can cancel your ballot up to two weeks until Election Day. Contact the election office that sent your ballot to ask about canceling it.
Tracking Your Absentee Ballot
Worried about whether your mail-in ballot has been received? You can track your ballot on the Secretary of State’s website. If your mail-in ballot is not received by Election Day, you can vote in person. After voting in person, the unique ballot ID number on your original absentee ballot will be invalidated. That means your vote will only be counted once.
Voting in Person: Early or on Election Day
Early in-person voting began on Friday, September 18. Each county has at least one early voting site. Call your county election official or go to the Secretary of State website to find the early voting sites in your county. Early voting sites are not the same as Election Day polling places.
On Election Day, polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. You can find your Election Day polling place through the Secretary of State’s website.
Still have questions? Just go to mnvotes.org for connections to voter information, sample ballots, and everything you need to know to make your vote count.
Mary Turck is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. She has published extensively as a journalist and has edited the Connection to the Americas and of the TC Daily Planet. Her website, maryturck.com, includes her literary and political blogs.