Minnesotans can start casting their ballots on Friday in the Aug. 9 primary, officially kicking off the 2022 election season for voters.
Under state law, voters can submit their ballot by mail or in person up to 46 days before an election. Early voting by mail spiked in 2020, as more people chose a remote option over waiting in line on Election Day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said the 2022 campaign will be a test of how much affinity voters gained for the early voting process during the last cycle.
"Increasingly it just works in busy people's lives," said Simon. "There are people who don't want to be told you have to go to a designated place on a certain day for a specific window of time."
But voting early isn't the same process as going to your polling place on Election Day. And for voters in southern Minnesota, two different elections are being held Aug. 9. Here's what you need to know about early voting this summer:
If I want to vote by mail from home, how do I get a ballot?
You can apply for an absentee ballot on the Secretary of State's website if you're eligible to register and vote in Minnesota. To apply online, you must provide a valid e-mail address and either your Minnesota-issued driver's license number, a state ID card or the last four digits of your Social Security number. You can also print out a paper application and mail it to your local election office.
I received my ballot in the mail. Now what?
You can vote now, but a few extra steps are required when voting by mail. You'll need a registered Minnesota voter or a notary to act as a witness as you complete your ballot and vote. That witness must then sign a signature envelope included with your absentee ballot and list that person's address. Notaries need to write down their name and title and sign the signature envelope.
How long do I have to mail in my absentee ballot?
You can mail in your ballot any time during the 46-day window before the election, as long as your ballot is received by Election Day. Otherwise, it won't be counted. Give your mail carrier a few days to collect your ballot and get it to your local election office.
I'd feel better if I could drop off my mail-in ballot in person. Is that an option?
Yes, you have up until 3 p.m. on Election Day to return your ballot to the office that sent it to you. Do not go to your polling place to drop off your ballot — it must be returned to your local election office.
What if I make a mistake on my ballot?
Don't worry, there are a few options to remedy a mistake on a mail-in ballot. The easiest way is to ask the local election office that sent you the ballot to send a replacement. If there's not enough time to do that before Election Day, the Secretary of State's office says you can clearly cross out the name of the candidate you didn't intend to vote for and select the candidate you prefer.
Can I check to make sure my mail-in ballot made it to my local election office?
Yes. The status of mail-in ballots can be tracked on the Secretary of State's website.
What if I returned my ballot but I want to change my vote?
This can happen to some voters who cast their ballot early, especially if new information about a candidate comes out late in the campaign. As long as your ballot has not been counted yet, you can still vote in person on Election Day at your polling place or before Election Day at your early voting center. Each mail-in ballot has its own ID number that will be invalidated if you submit a new ballot by voting in person, so you won't be voting twice.
How secure is the mail-in voting process?
Simon said there are many layers of security around the mail-in balloting process, including the fact that voters must include their Social Security or ID information to order an absentee ballot. That ballot will only be counted if it's returned with the same information.
I like voting in person, but I want to cast my ballot early. Where do I go?
You can vote early at your local elections office. Each county has an election office, and depending on where you live, there may be more than one place to vote early. Some cities have their own early vote locations as well. Contact your local officials to find out where to vote.
Are early voting locations open after work hours?
Early voting locations are open during their normal business hours in the 46 days before Election Day, but many offer extended hours closer to the election, including the last Saturday before Aug. 9.
Do I need to be registered to vote early in person?
You can register in person at your early voting location if you bring proof of residence.
I live in Minnesota's First Congressional District. What do I need to know about the primary?
The death of First District Rep. Jim Hagedorn in February set in motion a complicated series of elections to replace him for the remainder of his current term — which ends in January — and for the new two-year term that starts next year.
Voters have already narrowed down a long list of Republican and Democratic candidates in a special primary election in May for the race to fill the remainder of Hagedorn's term in Congress. But the winners from each party — Republican Brad Finstad, Democrat Jeff Ettinger and two pro-marijuana legalization party candidates — must now face off in a special general election, which is being held on the same day as the statewide Aug. 9 primary. Yes, that's right — two First District elections on the same day.
The candidates running for the special election to fill out Hagedorn's current term in Congress also want to continue serving the newly drawn district after January, so they've filed to run in the regular primary election as well. Early voting in both elections starts on Friday.
Here's what your ballot will look like: you can vote for one of the two Republican candidates or three DFL candidates vying for the primary on the first side of the ballot, and on the other side, you'll see the special election choices.
"If you're in [the First District] there are two different elections happening," said Simon. "Voters who think they're seeing double — who think, wait a minute, didn't I see these same folks on the same ballot for the same office? Yes, you did."