Voting in this year's races for Congress and the Minnesota Legislature is about to begin.
Friday marks the start of absentee voting before the Aug. 9 primary in races where there is more than one candidate from the same party seeking a nomination.
In recent years, Minnesota dropped a requirement that voters have a valid excuse to obtain an absentee ballot. DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon said that change, combined with a high-interest presidential election, has officials preparing for a surge in absentee ballots.
"We think that voters increasingly will take to this reform," Simon said Monday. "They like the freedom and they like the flexibility that it gives them. So anyone who wants to vote absentee can now do it. You don't have to give a reason or an excuse, they can just do it if they want to do it."
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Voters can request a ballot to mail back or fill out at a local elections office. The August primary will finalize the match-ups for the Nov. 8 general election.
As the primary and general elections draw closer, voters will notice another slight law change. Within a week of each election, they'll be able to feed their absentee ballot directly into a counting machine if they submit it in person. That's different than before, when their only choice was to put it in a security envelope for an official to enter it in later.
Aside from voter piece of mind, Simon said it will reduce the burden on election administrators as well.
"We decided to get rid of that hassle for both sides," he said. "Now, just like on game day ... and just simply feed the ballot right in just like they would on Election Day."
Vote tabulations will still be closely guarded until after polls close on Election Day.