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Walz, Ellison urge Minnesotans to vote, but be on guard for COVID-19 at events

Election Day is fast approaching.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison have issued a rare joint statement calling on Minnesotans to vote in the 2020 Election, but to take care when they do so.

While both Democrats, both are simply encouraging Minnesotans to vote — safely during the pandemic — in general, not for a specific party. 

In the past several elections, Minnesota has ranked among the top states for highest voter participation rates. In the 2016 presidential election, it ranked first with 75 percent of all eligible voters participating, joining a handful of states that broke the 70th percentile. In 2018, it set a new state record for participation in a midterm election with 64.2 percent, again ranking first nationwide. 

But this year's vote is complicated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is worsening as we approach the winter.

The Walz administration has also asked both the Biden and Trump campaigns to follow the state's safety requirements during voting and any ancillary political events or protests, with Ellison saying his office has reached out to the organizers of "70 large indoor and outdoor community events" in recent months to ensure they comply with COVID-19 safety requirements.

“With two weeks before Election Day, Minnesota is fully engaged in this momentous political season," Walz and Ellison wrote in a joint statement Wednesday. "While we welcome the opportunity for Minnesotans to participate in democracy, we must do so in a way that keeps our communities safe from COVID-19. The science is clear: Large numbers of people gathering for extended periods of time risks spreading this deadly virus.

“In these last 14 days, Minnesotans have countless ways to express their ideas and passions safely. We encourage all campaigns to protect the safety of Minnesotans. We all must do our part to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

While the risk of COVID-19 transmission heightens in large crowds, particularly indoors, the risk on Election Day itself is relatively low, with Minnesota health officials likening it to shopping at a grocery store while wearing face masks.

Like many other states, Minnesota is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases, with 35 deaths reported on Wednesday the joint highest in a single day so far. Tuesday, Gov. Walz said on CNN he was "nervous" about the climb. 

Meanwhile, cases continue to climb in bordering states Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. 

More than 8 million Americans, including 120,000 Minnesotans, have contracted the virus, leading to 221,000 deaths nationally and more than 2,200 in the state. 

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