Early voting helps Minnesotans avoid the rush, stay safe

Many Minnesotans will be voting on an array of local candidates and ballot questions November 2. While not every community […]

Many Minnesotans will be voting on an array of local candidates and ballot questions November 2. While not every community in the state will have an election, many are gearing for the big day.

Odd-numbered years typically have fewer names on the ballot. The core cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, will be electing mayors, as will communities large and small. Many will be casting ballots for school board members, city council members, park boards and other bodies. Some will have ballot questions.

Many people like voting on the day of the election, going in to cast a ballot in person. For some people with disabilities, early voting is a better option. Early voting was especially popular last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. As cases spike, many people may consider that option again for 2021.

Early voting, long known as absentee voting, allows for ballots to be cast before an election. Minnesota has streamlined the process. Early voting starts 46 days before the election. This year early voting starts Friday, September 17.

Early votes can be cast by mail or in person. All Minnesota voters have at least one location where they can vote early in person with an absentee ballot. County election offices offer early voting. Some communities may offer additional locations.

For most elections, absentee voting locations must be open during normal business hours starting 46 days before the election. In addition, locations offering absentee ballots for federal, state or county elections must be open these days and times:

  • The last Saturday before Election Day (10 a.m. — 3 p.m.)
  • The day before Election Day until 5 p.m.

Some local jurisdictions may provide additional absentee voting days or hours beyond the above required days and times. Call your jurisdiction for more information.

The added times and dates don’t apply in communities where only school board elections are on the ballot.

Early ballots can also be mailed to voters.

Or in some cases, an agent can pick up and deliver a ballot to a voter, and then return it to the election office. Agent delivery is an option for some people with disabilities.

To qualify for agent delivery, the voter must live in a nursing home, assisted living facility, residential treatment center, group home, battered women’s shelter or be hospitalized or unable to go to the polling place due to incapacitating health reasons or a disability.

An agent must be at least 18 years old, have a pre-existing relationship with the voter and cannot be a candidate. An individual cannot be an agent of more than three voters in an election. The agent must show identification with their name and signature when returning a ballot.

Give your agent a completed absentee ballot application and a request for agent delivery of absentee ballot form. Have your agent take both forms to the local election office to receive your ballot.

Agents can pick up ballot starting seven days before the election until 2 p.m. on Election Day. An agent or someone else designated by the voter must return the ballot to the same elections office by 3 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots can also be returned by mail. What’s important to remember is that election officials must receive the ballot on or before Election Day.

Editor’s note: Elections coverage is provided in cooperation with Ramsey County Elections.

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