What to expect when you cast your ballot

Minnesotans are voting in the state's primary election today. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie spoke with MPR's Tom Crann about what voters should expect when they cast their ballots.

Tom Crann: What do the primary ballots look like?

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie: The big difference between the primary and general election is that in the primary, you will see your three columns of your candidates within each of the three major political parties. We have the Independence Party, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party.

As a voter, you can only vote in one of the party primaries. So if you start voting in the Republican column, you have to stay in that column all the way down. Then below will be the non-partisan races, whether it's the sheriff race or county attorney, depending on where you are.

So the important thing is for voters to know that they can only vote down one of the party tickets in the beginning. If they do end up voting in several parties, crossing over, the optical scan machine, when they put their ballot in, will alert them and spit their ballot back. They can then take their ballot back to the election judge and request a new one to correct that.

But by law, you can only vote in the primary of one party -- and you have to choose that and then stick with that. So that's the thing that is different from what we think of as general election voting.

Crann: If people are worried that then they become identified as a member of a party or have to declare that, is that all confidential? You can make that choice and no one knows what column you picked, what party you voted?

Ritchie: Absolutely. In Minnesota, we do not have what many states have where you register by party and then you get one ballot. Every person who comes in gets the exact same ballot. Every person goes to a privacy booth, fills in the ballot according to their own beliefs or desires. They walk over and put it into the machine themselves. It's all done in privacy and independently.

There are often questions that arise because people would like to vote in several different parties. They're interested in the governor's race here and the attorney general's race there, but the way we do it in Minnesota, we keep it private. Nobody knows, but we do have to make sure that people are only voting in one column. That's how our recordkeeping is done in this primary process.

Crann: A question came in for you via Twitter today @MPRATC. This tweeter asked, 'If I've moved in the past year and did not re-register, can I vote in the primary?' Can that person?

Ritchie: Yes, if somebody has moved, of course, they must re-register. That's the law in our state. To re-register, they'll need to bring proof of where they are now living -- a utility bill, a new driver's license, whatever it is that identifies them in their new place. And they need to go to their new polling place.

Find your polling place here.

Crann: In Minneapolis and St. Paul, instant runoff voting or ranked choice voting, as it's known, will that be in effect?

Ritchie: No, these are approaches to polling that are going to be used in their local elections. We don't have those coming up. I think in St. Paul the plan is for 2011. It wouldn't pertain to a statewide election.

For more information about voting in the primary, visit the Secretary of State's website.

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