Thousands of Minnesotans request mail-in ballots to vote from home during the pandemic

Officials have encouraged people to vote by mail due to the pandemic.
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Voting by mail seems to be the popular choice for the 2020 election in Minnesota. 

State officials have encouraged Minnesotans to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And people have listened. 

According to a tweet from Secretary of State Steve Simon, 144,768 people have requested a ballot by mail. 

That's significantly higher – more than 20 times higher – than the number of people who requested a mail-in ballot during the same time period in the 2018 and 2016 elections. 

May 13 was the first day Minnesotans could request a mail-in ballot through the Secretary of State's website (you can fill out an application to get one here), and officials across much of the state have been encouraging people to vote early by mail to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic at polling places.  

In just the first week of eligibility, 36,880 Minnesotans requested an absentee ballot. In 2018, for the same time period, 173 people requested one, and in 2016, 88 people did, Simon tweeted on May 21.

Meanwhile, some counties including Olmsted County, have decided to mail absentee ballot applications to every eligible voter in the county in hopes of getting more to vote early by mail to prevent large gatherings of people at the polls this fall. 

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And state officials are making it easier for people to vote by mail by not requiring a witness signature on the mail-in primary ballot. Absentee and in-person voting for the primary begins June 26.

Republicans in Minnesota and elsewhere in the United States have questioned the integrity of mail-in voting, especially after President Donald Trump falsely claimed it is corrupt (all voter fraud is extremely rare, the New York Times reports). There is also no evidence that voting by mail gives one political party an advantage, Five Thirty Eight found.

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Ritchie: 100,000 Minnesotans request absentee ballots

Even though Election Day is more than three weeks away, Minnesotans who can't vote in November are getting proactive about casting their ballots. According to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, more than 100,000 voters in the state have requested absentee ballots, and about 41,000 have already returned them.