Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota has been one of the states that makes voting extremely simple – allowing same-day registration on election day, allowing registered neighbors to vouch for residency when registering to vote if someone does not have another way to prove residency, and allowing no-excuse absentee or mail-in voting. However, this year has created confusion and misunderstanding regarding the election process, especially when it comes to absentee and mail-in voting and whether or not it is safe.
“In regards to the safety of mail voting, our local post office strives to deliver as many ballots as possible by Election Day,” said Isanti County Auditor-Treasurer Chad Struss. “We anticipate an unprecedented number of mail absentee ballots this year, so both our office and the post office will be busy. I advise voters to send in absentee ballot applications and completed ballots as early as possible to maximize processing time.”
Registering to vote
The first step in any election is registering to vote. Voters can pre-register to vote, or register the day of election. The deadline for pre-registration for the general election is Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. In order to register, voters must provide proof of residency, according to Struss.
Pre-registration can be completed online, or on paper and mailed, emailed, or faxed to the local election office. In order to provide proof of residency while pre-registering, voters need to provide a Minnesota State Driver’s License or State Identification number or the last four digits of their social security number, according to the MN Secretary of State (SOS) website.
To register when voting, either early at their local election office or on election day at the polling location, voters have several options to provide proof of residency, according to the SOS website.
The first option is to provide a form of identification with current address, whether it be a driver’s license, learner’s permit, or tribal identification card. A second option is to provide a valid form of identification (driver’s license, learner’s permit, US passport, US military or veteran ID, tribal ID, student ID from a MN school) and an approved document (utility or service bills dated within 30 days of the election, lease or rent agreement valid through election day, or current student fee statement). Colleges will often send a student housing list to the polling location, and students then only have to show their student ID.
If none of those options work for someone wanting to register to vote, they can bring a registered voter from their precinct with them to the polling place to sign an oath vouching for the voter’s address. If the voter is a resident of a facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living, a staff member may vouch for them. The staff person must prove their employment at the facility.
Voters who are registered, but have moved or changed names since the last election can update their registration with the new name or address on election by telling the election judge their previous name or address.
Voters can check their registration online at the SOS website, as well.
Absentee and mail-in voting
In Minnesota, absentee and mail-in voting are virtually the same thing. If a voter is not able to go to their polling place on election day (Nov. 3, 2020, for the general election) for any reason, they can apply for an absentee ballot. This can be done in person at their local election office, online, by mail, by email, or by fax.
Many registered voters have likely received an absentee ballot application in the mail through any number of organizations in Minnesota, according to Chisago County’s election website. If a voter has received more than one absentee ballot application, only fill out and return one of the applications.
If requesting a ballot via mail, online, email, or fax, a ballot will be mailed to the voter with a return envelope, according to Struss. Voters who fill out an absentee ballot request in person can cast their ballot at the same time at their local election office.
Voters can track their ballots on the SOS website, as well.