The absentee ballot request forms you've received in the mail? Here's what to know

Every election year, the Center for Voter Information mails applications to vote absentee.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon tweeted a photo of a mailing from the Center for Voter Information Thursday, clarifying it's fine to use forms sent from this organization to request a ballot in the mail.

The non-partisan, non-profit organization mails out applications to vote absentee across the country for each election, usually prioritizing groups that have been underrepresented in voter turnout. 

As the pandemic continues during this election season, there's an increased focus and encouragement from elected officials and other civic organizations to vote by mail to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at polling places.

But the Center for Voter Information and other organizations, including partisan ones on both sides of the political divide, have long been encouraging people to vote by simply sending out applications. For instance, the North Carolina Republican Party this week sent residents absentee ballot request forms accompanied with literature promoting the re-election of President Donald Trump, CNN reports

In some cases, the applications are partially filled out with the resident's name or address. This is because organizations are pulling publicly-available information from voting data.

In some cases, inaccurate return addresses have been reported on envelopes from the Center for Voter Information in other states, but the Minnesota Secretary of State office told BMTN that residents can still use the form and double check where to return it. The correct place to drop off or mail your ballot is your local elections office, which you can look up at the SOS website

Secretary of State Steve Simon tweeted Thursday: "Minnesota: If you received a mailing like this, containing an absentee ballot application: 1. It’s not from the MN Office of Secretary of State. 2. It is, however, a true & legitimate absentee application. 3. If you’ve already applied to vote from home, disregard the mailing."

While organizations and parties sending out absentee ballot request forms isn't anything new, it has nonetheless caused some confusion among voters who would normally cast their ballot in person, but are now considering voting by mail for the first time, and aren't as familiar with the process.

If you want to go through the most common channel, Minnesotans can apply to receive a ballot in the mail at mnvotes.org, a shortcut for the Secretary of State's website. The site also has a printable form (the same one the Center for Voter Information and other organizations are sending out) residents can mail in to apply. Voters can also check the status of their mail ballot through the website

The Minnesota Secretary of State will also be sending applications to vote by mail to anyone who hasn't yet applied in the coming weeks, a spokesperson told BMTN, so be aware of those. 

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