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Don’t let COVID-19 stop your vote. Here’s how to vote by mail in Minnesota

By Jiwon Choi and Cody Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio News

The COVID-19 pandemic is posing unprecedented challenges for the 2020 election, creating nationwide declines in voter registration that could shift the makeup of who casts ballots and who doesn’t.

But in Minnesota, most people can vote without leaving home.

Here’s a rundown of how to vote by mail in Minnesota’s August primary election:

Step 1) Register (if you haven’t already)

Registering first isn’t required to cast a mail-in ballot, but state elections officials say it makes the process easier.

In Minnesota, you can register to vote or update your registration online if you have a Minnesota driver’s license or state identification card. If not, you still can download a paper application you can mail in or drop off at your county election office. Applications are available in 12 languages and Braille.

Step 2) Request an absentee ballot

Eligible Minnesota voters can get an absentee ballot for any reason. Even if you simply don’t want to go to the polls — like if there’s a deadly respiratory virus spreading throughout the state — you can get an absentee ballot. People can apply for a ballot anytime before Election Day and the application is available on the Secretary of State’s website.

Step 3) Vote and sign the envelope

Once you receive your mail-in ballot, check if both sides of the ballot paper are printed correctly, mark your ballot and put it back in the envelope it came with. On the ballot envelope, write your name, address and ID number and sign the envelope before sending it.

For this August primary election, you don’t need to have a witness to sign on the absentee ballot envelope. Witness requirement has not been changed for the November general election.

Step 4) Turn in your ballot on time

You can return your ballot simply by mail or any package delivery service. Your ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day, and received by your county by the day before the county canvass, which may take place within two to three days after the election. So allow sufficient time for your ballot to ship. You can check if your ballot has been received and counted on the Secretary of State’s website.

If you’re up against the clock, you can return your ballot to the election office that sent it on Election Day by 3 p.m. People in certain circumstances, like if they’re hospitalized or living in a nursing home, can request to have an agent pick up their ballot and return it on their behalf.

What if you change your mind after submitting your ballot?

Don’t worry, in Minnesota you can cancel your mail-in ballot. To do that, contact the local election office that sent your ballot. After they cancel your ballot, you can submit a new mail-in ballot early or cast your ballot in person on Election Day.

But remember, you can only cancel your early ballot up to a week before Election Day.