Minnesota Secretary Of State - Minnesota Elections in 2020
Skip to main content
Important Changes to Office Operations: COVID-19 Information

Minnesota Elections in 2020


It's time to vote! If you have an absentee ballot, return it as soon as possible. DO NOT return it by mail.

Voters may hand deliver a ballot to your local elections office or a designated drop box, or vote early in person.

Absentee ballots must be received by Election Day, November 3! 

If you vote early in person or in the polling place on Election Day, make sure to wear a mask and follow all instructions in the polling place to ensure your safety and the safety of poll workers.  

 

KEY DATES

September 18 - Early voting by absentee ballot begins. Request your ballot now!

September 22 - National Voter Registration Day! Check your registration and tell your family and friends. 

October 2 - Recommended that voters apply for absentee ballots before this day, to ensure enough time to receive and return their ballot. 

October 13 - Make sure you are registered to vote, to save time at the polling place.

November 3 - Election Day! Vote in person at your polling place or make sure your absentee ballot is received by this day.

 

How are Minnesota’s elections affected by COVID-19?

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts are unanimous that avoiding crowded public places is the best way to limit the spread of the disease and keep our communities healthy.

While Minnesota is under a state of peacetime emergency in response to the pandemic, Secretary of State Steve Simon is encouraging every eligible voter to Vote From Home. With Minnesota’s absentee balloting system, any eligible voter may request an absentee ballot, have it securely mailed to them, and fill it out and return it from the safety of home.

Voting from home 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.

Those poll workers (sometimes called Election Judges) are essential to Election Day. They check in voters, register new voters, make sure that votes are accurately cast, and help to count the votes. It's no secret that they tend to be older. Some of these dedicated citizens have served for decades to make sure voting in the polling place runs smoothly, and that the election results are secure and accurate. But this year, those very people are the ones who are most susceptible to COVID-19. We need others to take their place.

Secretary Simon is calling on Minnesotans to step up and be a poll worker. In a normal year, the benefits of serving are that you get to see the elections process from the inside, you get to meet your neighbors, and you even get paid. But in 2020, the mission is even more important. We simply must help older Minnesotans avoid potential exposure. We're ready to answer the call and rise to the challenge.

 

What is the Secretary of State doing to keep polling places safe?

What is vote from home? is it the same thing as vote-by-mail?

Do I need stamps to mail my ballot? What about problems with the mail?

I received a mailing with an absentee ballot application - Is it real?

What will happen with results on Election Night?

 

 

What is the secretary of state doing to keep polling places safe?

Although voting from home with an absentee ballot is the safest option in a pandemic, many voters need, or simply prefer, to vote in their polling place on Election Day.

The federal government’s coronavirus relief funding (CARES Act) included $8.4 million to help Minnesota run a safe election. Secretary Simon has convened working groups, comprised of election officials from cities, counties and towns all over Minnesota, to determine the best way to distribute and spend this money toward the goal of safe elections in 2020.

One significant component of the plan is personal protective equipment (PPE) for the polling place. The Secretary of State’s office has centralized and facilitated the purchase of masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, and other PPE for use at polling places statewide:

  • 53,700 KN95 masks
  • 360,000 surgical-style disposable masks
  • 15,900 face shields
  • 9,200 packs of alcohol wipes (nearly a half a million individual wipes)
  • 9,200 bottles of disinfectant
  • 8,500 gallons of hand sanitizer
  • 6,220 sanitization stations

Gov. Tim Walz's Executive Order 20-81 requires that masks be worn in public places, including polling places. The Secretary of State's Office has provided counties with posters informing voters of this requirement. No voter will be denied the right to vote for failure to wear a mask.

 

What is vote from home? Is it the same thing as vote-by-mail?

In Minnesota, Vote From Home means voting with our absentee ballot system. It's not the same as some states where every registered voter is sent a ballot (sometimes called "universal vote by mail"). In Minnesota, a voter needs to apply for a ballot, which is sent to them at their residence once their identity is verified.

Voting from home with an absentee ballot is a safe, secure way to vote. Since 2013, any eligible voter has been able to vote before Election Day, with no excuse needed. 

Voting by mail is common: In the last two federal elections, 1 in 4 Americans cast a ballot by mail. In Minnesota, almost a quarter of Minnesota voters opted to vote absentee in the 2018 election. 200,000 Minnesotans live in areas of the state where there are no polling places at all – elections are conducted entirely by mail.

Voting by mail is secure: Numerous layers of security make absentee voting just as secure as in the polling place.

When a voter fills out an absentee ballot, they must include personal identifying information: address, birthday, and driver’s license/State ID number or last four digits of a Social Security number). This information is matched with their unique record in the voter registration system.

Every envelope has a unique bar code, which allows election officials to track a ballot as it’s received and processed in the system. Bar codes also allow Minnesota to identify and eliminate duplicate ballots if a voter casts more than one, whether mistakenly or fraudulently.

Minnesota uses secure drop-off locations and drop boxes: Multiple ballot return options limit the opportunity for ballot tampering by fostering voter independence in returning a ballot.

  • Voters can mail ballots back from home
  • Or, drop into a postal service box or at the local post office
  • Or, personally bring to their county office if they don’t feel comfortable dropping in the mail
  • Or, ask someone you trust to drop it off for you - any person can deliver a ballot for up to three other voters

What if someone steals my ballot?

Minnesota’s absentee ballot system allows a voter to track the progress of their ballot. If a ballot is listed as delivered, but doesn’t show up in your mail, or if it is for some reason listed as returned, but you were not the one who returned it, you can call your county elections office and have a new one issued.

 In the unlikely case that someone is in possession of a stolen ballot, they would find themselves unable to have it counted. For an absentee ballot to be accepted, it must include the identifying information (MN driver license or ID number, or Social Security Number) of the voter who requested it.

 

Do I need stamps to mail my ballot? What about problems with the mail?

Voting by mail is always free for the voter in Minnesota. You will never have to affix postage stamps or pay in any other way to return your ballot.

Recent news reports have contained accounts about changes in processes and management in the United States Postal Service, which have made some people voice concerns about the ability of the post office to handle a great increase in election mail during the run-up to November 3.

In Minnesota, we have a 46-day period before Election Day where absentee ballots may be returned. In 2020, that means early voting begins on September 18. We are encouraging voters to submit their ballot as soon as possible, both to give the postal service plenty of time to deliver, as well as reduce the stress of processing the ballots at county election offices. 

For the November 3, 2020 election, your ballot must be received by Election Day in order to be counted.

 

I received a mailing with an absentee ballot application. Is it real?

The Office of Secretary of State recently sent a mailing to Minnesota voters with information on how to vote from home via absentee ballot. If you want to vote from home via absentee ballot, you can return the paper form or apply online from the Secretary of State's Office. You do not need to apply for an absentee ballot if you do not want to, your polling place will be open on election day for in person voting.

In addition, numerous groups, from inside and outside Minnesota, have sent widespread mailings to voters encouraging them to vote by absentee ballot. In most cases, the application they send is a copy of the official form produced by the Secretary of State and should be acceptable for applying. Make sure that the pre-addressed return envelope is addressed to your county or city elections office, and not another organization. Contact the Secretary of State or your local elections office if you have any questions about a mailing you’ve received.

If you've already applied for an absentee ballot, or plan to vote at the polls on Election Day, you can disregard these mailings. The best way to apply for an absentee ballot is online, from the Secretary of State's Office

 

What will happen with results on election night?

The 2020 Election will be different than we are used to. The time needed to process a higher number of absentee ballots means we may not know the final vote totals on election night. Election officials throughout Minnesota will be working to get ballots counted as accurately as possible, and so will appreciate patience from the public and the news media when results aren’t available as soon as in other years.

Although the Secretary of State displays unofficial election results on election night, the actual counting of the ballots is completed at the county level. Counties use a variety of equipment and procedures for this process, and some results might come in slower than others. 

Due to COVID-19, absentee ballots postmarked by election day will be counted if they arrive at the election office within seven days.