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Minnesota

There are a wide variety of issue areas in which Minnesota has opportunities to improve voter access and system integrity and continue on the progress made in 2020, with the simplest being making 2020 changes permanent. These improvements will bring Minnesota one step closer to a more safe, efficient, and voter-friendly election process. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

Minnesota’s current permanent absentee list is not what we would consider a true permanent absentee option, as voters are only sent applications, not ballots, for each election. This increases barriers to the ballot box and increases paperwork (and cost!) for both the voter and the localities. Switching to a true permanent option would increase voter access and save the state significant expense by cutting down on the requests they need to process, with localities saving an average of $1 for every request they no longer need to process.
Minnesota’s existing signature verification procedures already ensure sure that the ballots received are being filled out by the individuals they were sent to. From an election security standpoint, witness requirements are far less secure than signature verification. We recommend the state maintain its 2020 policy of requiring only a signature, not a witness.
Minnesota can increase voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package by improving its current ballot tracking system. Advanced ballot tracking systems can proactively notify voters when their ballot takes a new step in the path from being sent to them to finally being counted (or rejected). If a ballot is rejected, these ballot tracking tools can be used as another method to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope.
After the recent ruling came down that existing law doesn’t allow the state to count postmarked ballots for regular voters, we recommend Minnesota pass legislation to extend postmark acceptance to all types of voters, not just military and overseas voters. Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks shortly after election day is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner, as it is estimated in most jurisdictions to decrease ballot rejection rates by half.
We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options. Additionally, we recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling and vote centers, as well as other locations deemed necessary by the clerk, as a low cost way to increase return options.
Current law only allows voters to cure any fixable issues with their ballots before election day, leaving out any voters whose ballots haven’t been processed by then so they have no chance to ensure their ballots aren’t needlessly rejected. Extending the amount of time voters have to cure issues with their ballot envelopes would reduce rejection rates, and we recommend allowing cures for at least 5 days after election and implementing a Text2Cure system that allows voters to cure their ballots from their phones.

Recent Legislation

As of August 18, 2021

In 2020, many bills were introduced to make changes to adjust to the pandemic, but none passed. As part of a court settlement, Minnesota temporarily waived its witness requirement for absentee ballots, relying on signature matching to verify ballots. Minnesota tried to do as it has for military and overseas voters for years by allowing ballots postmarked as sent by election day that arrive a few days late to still be counted, but after a long court battle a federal judge ruled it could not. Finally, Governor Walz signed an executive order to allow co-ops to vote absentee for the pandemic. The only bill relating to mail voting passed was SF2, which codified into law allowing local election officails to create drop boxes.