What you need to know about voting for the 2020 election

Friday, Sept. 18 marked the beginning of early voting by absentee ballot in Minnesota.

Ahead of November’s election, do you want to know how to register to vote? Are you wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the voting process this year? Do you need information on how to submit your ballot?

Here are some things to know about this year’s election process, courtesy of the Secretary of State’s office:

What do I need to vote?

If your voter registration is current and active, meaning you were registered to vote at least 21 days before the voting day and haven’t moved or changed names, an identification card isn’t required.

You can check whether you’re eligible to vote here.

How do I register to vote?

If not already eligible, individuals can register to vote in a variety of ways, including online, by filling out a print form, or in-person on the voting day.

Learn more about voter registration here.

How do I vote?

Voters can participate in the upcoming election in different ways.

  • Early, by mail. Learn more about that process here. Additionally, information about absentee ballots is included below.
  • Early, in-person. Learn more about that process here.
  • In-person, on Election Day. Voters can find important voting information for their precincts here.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that Minnesota is in a state of peacetime emergency, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon is encouraging eligible voters to vote by mail, stating that "will reduce crowds at the polling place on Election Day, keeping them safer and more efficient for those who need to or prefer to vote in person, and for those 30,000 poll workers that make our Election Day voting experience the best in the nation."

How do I vote using an absentee ballot?

In Minnesota, a voter needs to apply for a ballot. A person does not have to be registered to vote in order to apply for an absentee ballot.

Once a voter’s identity is verified, a ballot is mailed to their residence.

When completing the ballot, a voter must provide personal identifying information, including name, address, birthday, and driver’s license or state ID number or the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. That information is used to match the voter’s unique record in the voter registration system.

For non-registered voters completing an absentee ballot, there is a box for a witness to complete and sign, to indicate the voter’s proof of residence. There is not witness requirement for voters who are already registered to vote.

Learn more about the absentee ballot process here.

Once complete, an absentee ballot can be submitted in the following ways:

  • Voters can mail ballots back right from home.
  • Voters can drop their ballots into a postal service box or at a local post office.
  • Voters can personally bring their ballots to their county office.
  • Voters can ask a trusted individual to drop their ballots off for them – any individual can deliver a ballot for up to three other voters.

Additionally, voting by mail is always free for the Minnesota voter and stamps are not required to submit an absentee ballot.

For the Nov. 3, 2020 election, a ballot must be postmarked by Election Day and received by a local election office within seven days, in order to be counted.

You can track the status of your mail-in ballot here.

What’s on my ballot?

You can see a list of the candidates and ballot questions on your sample ballot here.

What are some key, upcoming dates to remember?

Sept. 18 — Early voting by absentee ballot begins.

Sept. 22 — National Voter Registration Day. Check your own registration and remind your family and friends, if they haven’t yet registered.

Oct. 2 — It’s recommended that voters apply for absentee ballots before this day, to ensure they have enough time to receive and return their ballots.

Nov. 3 — Election Day. Voters can vote in-person at their polling place or make sure their absentee ballots are postmarked by this day.

What about results on Election Day?

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon says delays in reporting results are expected, due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

According to Simon, a significant increase in absentee ballot submissions is expected.

"The time needed to process a higher number of absentee ballots means we may not know the final vote totals on election night," Simon said.

As a result, Simon said Minnesotans will likely not see complete results right away on election night in 2020.

KSTP’s complete 2020 election coverage