As the United States prepares to hold a presidential election in the midst of a deadly pandemic, many states have adjusted how they are holding their elections to minimize in-person contact at the polls, including Minnesota.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon in September sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the state along with a letter encouraging them to vote from home in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at polling places. The step by the secretary of state to send all voters absentee ballot applications is in line with what many states have done, but does not go as far as other states that are mailing actual ballots to every voter.
“During a pandemic, we have to view this election as a public health challenge,” Simon said in a statement at the time. “In a normal year, the appeal of voting from home is comfort and convenience. But this year, it’s also a public service – because every person who votes from home is making the polling place a little bit safer for voters who need or prefer to vote in person.”
Simon recommends that voters apply for absentee ballots before Oct. 2 to ensure that there is enough time for the ballots to make it to them and then be returned. Ballots that are postmarked by Election Day will be counted for the election as long as they arrive within seven days of Election Day, according to the secretary of state.
Minnesota, unlike other states that are reducing the number of polling places they have open, is leaving all of its in-person voting options intact – but it still recommends those who can vote by mail do so to ensure that the polling places are safe and convenient for those who need to use them.
In Minnesota, the voter registration deadline is Oct. 13, which means voters must register online or have their registration received by that date. Same-day registration is also available at polling places, but it will take longer than if voters register in advance. For those that do vote by mail, there is a link on the secretary of state’s website where they can track their ballot.