Updated: 2 p.m., Aug. 6
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing unprecedented challenges for the 2020 election, creating nationwide declines in voter registration that could shift the makeup of who casts ballots and who doesn’t.
But in Minnesota, most people can vote without leaving home.
Here’s a rundown of how to vote by mail in Minnesota’s August primary election:
Step 1) Register (if you haven’t already)
Registering first isn’t required to cast a mail-in ballot, but state elections officials say it makes the process easier.
In Minnesota, you can register to vote or update your registration online if you have a Minnesota driver’s license or state identification card. If not, you still can download a paper application you can mail in or drop off at your county election office. Applications are available in 12 languages and Braille.
Step 2) Request an absentee ballot
Eligible Minnesota voters can get an absentee ballot for any reason. Even if you simply don’t want to go to the polls — like if there’s a deadly respiratory virus spreading throughout the state — you can get an absentee ballot. People can apply for a ballot anytime before Election Day and the application is available on the Secretary of State’s website.
Step 3) Vote and sign the envelope
Once you receive your mail-in ballot, check if both sides of the ballot paper are printed correctly and make sure your absentee ballot package has a ballot and three envelopes: a tan ballot envelope, a white signature envelope and a white return envelope.
Then, mark your ballot, put it in the tan ballot envelope and seal the envelope. On the white signature envelope, write your name, address and ID number, sign the envelope and put it inside the return envelope.
For this August primary election, registered voters don’t need to have a witness to sign on the absentee ballot envelope. On Aug. 3, a Ramsey County judge ruled that the state can also waive the absentee voting witness requirement for November’s general election. Also, ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 will now be counted within seven days.
Step 4) Turn in your ballot on time
You can return your ballot simply by mail or any package delivery service. Your ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day, and received by your county by the day before the county canvass, which may take place within two to three days after the election. So allow sufficient time for your ballot to ship. You can check if your ballot has been received and counted on the Secretary of State’s website.
If you’re up against the clock, you can return your ballot to the election office that sent it on Election Day by 3 p.m. People in certain circumstances, like if they’re hospitalized or living in a nursing home, can request to have an agent pick up their ballot and return it on their behalf.
What if you change your mind after submitting your ballot?
Don’t worry, in Minnesota you can cancel your mail-in ballot. To do that, contact the local election office that sent your ballot. After they cancel your ballot, you can submit a new mail-in ballot early or cast your ballot in person on Election Day.
But remember, you can only cancel your early ballot up to two weeks before Election Day.
Have other questions about mail-in voting in Minnesota this year? #AskMPRNews!
Correction (July 17, 2020): Previously, this story and the video incorrectly said mail-in ballot cancellation can be done up to a week before Election Day. Cancellation is available up to two weeks before Election Day.