Updated: Rural mail-in precincts can vote in person!
In a mail-in designated precinct, registered voters are automatically sent a ballot. If you are not registered, you do not get a ballot or a notice from the state.
The number of precincts in Minnesota designated as "mail-in" balloting precincts has grown dramatically this year, and every election year, under Secretary of State Steve Simon (DFL).
Consider that when Simon became Secretary of State (SOS) in 2014, there were 588 mail-in precincts.
In 2018, there were 948 mail-in balloting precincts, today, there are 1,345. That is a 42 percent increase!
There are 393 new cities and townships designated as mail-in for 2020, affecting 74,454 registered voters in outstate Minnesota. (The spreadsheet we got from the SOS shows 148,490 affected voters across Minnesota but we are waiting for the number to be confirmed.)
The SOS Website FAQ for Mail-In Precincts can be read here.
It is important that you the voter understand what this means, and whether your precinct has been added to the list of mail-in only precincts, especially if you are not already registered.
There are also policy concerns; does this suppress the rural vote? We note that tens of millions of dollars in federal aid due to Covid is being used to expand voting options in the metro area and Twin Cities and worry that this trend works against voter participation outside of the metro. If voters in these precincts are expecting to vote on Election Day at their old precincts, or they are not registered, they may encounter difficulties and not vote.
We also worry about the mailed ballots that do not reach the voter. If everything works perfectly the ballot gets back to the election office and the database gets updated but things do not always work perfectly especially with the U.S. mails and government databases.
What is a mail-in ballot precinct?
In a mail-in designated precinct, a voter who is registered is automatically sent a ballot. It arrives in your mailbox. You do not have to fill out an absentee ballot application.
The idea is to fill out the ballot and then drop it back in the U.S. mail---though there are still we think better options to vote in person, so keep reading!
You can track your ballot just like an absentee ballot here. We think that is a great idea, especially if you decide to put it in the mail or hand it to an election official rather than feeding it into a tabulator yourself.
How do I find out if I live in a precinct designated as "mail-in"?
To find out if you live in a mail-in balloting precinct, please visit the polling place finder on the Secretary of State's polling place finder at: Polling Place Finder.
According to the Secretary of State's website, if you live in a 'mail-in' precinct, after you fill in identifying information, you will see a message that ballots are mailed to registered voters. You should also see the location of the central polling place where you can drop off your ballot instead, or, vote in person and register if needed.
What if I live in a mail-in precinct and I am not registered?
Here is the SOS website:
If you are not registered, or, if you haven’t voted in two consecutive federal elections, your voter status may have been changed to "inactive."
For those who are new to a mail ballot precinct or their voter registration record has become inactivated due to not voting at least once every four years, will need to complete an absentee ballot application and a new voter registration application.
If the voter is not registered at least 20 days before Election Day (pre-registered), they will need to provide a proof of residence as part of an Election Day registration with their absentee ballot. And even thought the website says voters who are not pre-registered have to have a witness to vote in person, we checked with SOS and that is NOT THE CASE. Voters who are not pre-registered do not need a witness to verify their proof of residence; just current ID or other proof of residence (e.g., ID plus utility bill or lease with current address)
Do I have to use the mail?
Will any polling places be open on Election Day in "mail-in" precincts?
YES. The office of the election official conducting your election will be open as a polling place on Election Day. This central location may also be open prior to election day as well. However, we suggest that you contact your elections staff in your city or county to verify the days and times that your polling place is open.
Caveat: your central polling place may be quite a distance so plan ahead!
You should be able to find the central voting location when you visit the Polling Place Finder
Mail ballot voters on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. can:
- Return their voted mail ballot to that polling place.
- Have an agent return their voted mail ballot to that polling place (limit of three others’ ballots can be returned as an agent).
- Take their unvoted ballot packet to that polling place, vote it and turn it in.
- Go to polling place and inform them that your mail ballot was spoiled, lost, thrown away, etc. and:
- Have a replacement ballot issued
- Vote the replacement ballot
- Turn it in
- Vote an absentee ballot because they are currently not an “active” registered voter on Election Day
- May have to produce Election Day Registration documents
If you have questions concerning your particular precincts, PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT US. Contact your city or county elections department, OR call the Secretary of State’s office for Greater Minnesota at 877-600-VOTE (8683).
Please share this information with your friends and relatives!
Here more background from the SOS website:
In Minnesota, cities outside the Twin Cities metro area with fewer than 400 registered voters, or townships of any size, can choose to vote exclusively by mail by resolution of their city council or township board. Minnesota has had these mail ballot precincts for over 30 years; the legislation authorizing this type of voting for residents of small, non-metro jurisdictions became law in 1987. (204B.45 Mail Balloting)
The SOS Website FAQ for Mail-In Precincts can be read here.
If you have questions, call the Secretary of State’s office for Greater Minnesota at 877-600-VOTE (8683).