What You Need to Know for Minnesota’s Primary Election on Tuesday

Minnesota election officials have been scrambling for weeks to hold Tuesday’s primary election in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

From relaxed rules on absentee voting to changes on election night to new procedures at polling places, here’s what you need to know.

HOW MANY VOTERS HAVE CHOSEN ABSENTEE BALLOTS?

As of Friday, 545,259 Minnesotans had requested absentee ballots, compared with 54,264 requests by the same date in the 2018 primary, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said.

“The requests from people to vote from home have been absolutely off the charts,” Simon said in an interview.

But the rate of return has lagged. As of Friday, 245,371 ballots had been returned and accepted, Simon’s office said. That means 45 percent of people who’d requested a ballot had actually filled it out and sent it in.

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO RETURN MY BALLOT?

Because of a court order, a ballot will count if it’s postmarked by Tuesday and received within two days. That’s different from previous years when a ballot had to be received on the day of the election to count.

Simon warned that voters should mail back their ballots by Thursday to ensure they’ll get to election administrators on time.

WILL THE RULES BE THE SAME FOR THE NOVEMBER ELECTION?

Probably, but with one notable change.

The same Ramsey County judge has approved a second consent decree that allows ballots in the Nov. 3 general election to count if they’re postmarked by Election Day and received within seven days.

Republicans who are fighting the case could still appeal the ruling.

WON’T THAT DELAY RESULTS?

It could.

Because valid ballots will be counted days after the election, we might not know all of the results on election night — especially for close races.

CAN I VOTE IN PERSON?

Yes.

Minnesota will still conduct in-person voting on Tuesday and for the Nov. 3 general election.

SHOULD I WEAR A MASK TO VOTE?

Yes.

All public health officials have encouraged people to wear masks in indoor places to slow the spread of coronavirus. Election workers will have masks available for voters to forget to bring their own.

If a voter refuses to wear a mask, election workers will ask the person to vote in a hallway or in their car.

But, despite Minnesota’s mask mandate, voters will not be required to wear a mask.

HAS MY POLLING PLACE CHANGED?

Maybe.

Many municipalities, including Minneapolis, have moved polling places out of nursing homes and senior centers because they’re at a higher risk of the coronavirus.

To check your polling place, visit mnvotes.org.

WHAT CHANGES WILL I SEE AT THE POLLING PLACE?

The state has sent pots of federal money to cities and counties to sanitize polling places.

Debby Erickson, the administrative services director in Crow Wing County, said she used her $56,000 allocation to buy hand sanitizer, masks, plexiglass shields, and disposable pens.

“We’re providing them with additional pens  — which seems like a really weird concept — but we are planning that as a voter enters a polling place, an election judge will be at the door and hand them their pen, which is theirs to use while they’re in the polling place,” Erickson said.

Erickson said polling places will offer curbside voting to people who are unable to come inside. Poll workers will be cleaning booths between each voter.

WILL THERE BE ENOUGH POLL WORKERS?

Unclear.

Simon said Minnesota needs 30,000 election judges to pull off a statewide election, but municipalities have struggled to attract enough workers. Some regulars have decided to sit out in 2020 because of the virus. Many poll workers are older and at a higher risk of infection.

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