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Voting in a pandemic: What Minnesotans need to know on primary day

Voters can still drop off mailed ballots at their elections office by 3 p.m. Tuesday

Tuesday is the official election day for the Minnesota primary, but close to half a million Minnesotans have already voted. As of Monday, 423,000 absentee ballots have been mailed in and accepted as many voters opt to avoid polling places amid the pandemic.

All U.S. Representatives are up for election again, as is Sen. Tina Smith. You can find more information on what is on your specific ballot locally through the Minnesota Secretary of State website

If you haven't already voted by mail, here's what you should know about casting your ballot in person on Tuesday:

Wear a mask!

Masks will be required inside polling places. Voters may also wear a face shield. 

Disposable face masks will be given to anyone who does not have one prior to entry. If a voter refuses to wear one, or can't wear one, they will be able to vote outside. 

Be sure to keep your mask on while waiting outside, too. According to the mask mandate, face coverings are required in indoor public areas, as well as while waiting to enter those public indoor spaces. 

Curbside voting

If you have a health concern, like needing to maintain a stronger distance from others or having difficulty leaving your vehicle, you can request curbside voting when you arrive, or call your local elections office in advance. An election judge from each major political party will bring out a ballot — and if needed, an application — to your vehicle and return it for you after you are done.  

Didn't mail your ballot on time? You have until 3 p.m. 

If you have already requested and received a ballot in the mail but haven't yet mailed it back, you can drop it off at your local elections office — this should be the location that sent you the ballot — until 3 p.m. Dropping it off at polling places is not permitted. It will be counted provided it arrives with an Aug. 11 postmark by Thursday.

Your polling place may have moved. 

Don't assume your location will be the same as last time. Check the Minnesota Secretary of State website for your polling place. Once you do, you'll also be able to view a sample ballot with the races and candidates in your area. 

For example, in Minneapolis, 50 of the city's polling places have moved to "protect people living in residential facilities and provide more space to keep voters a safe distance from elections staff and each other." 

Need to register?

Minnesota offers same-day registration. Here is a list of documents you can bring to prove your identity when registering. 

Additional pandemic safety information

All voting locations are required to follow sanitization guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This involves sanitizing voting booths — including clipboards and pens — as well as voting machines and registration tables. Sanitizer will also be available for each voter. 

If you want, you could bring your own black pen. Avoid using anything that could easily bleed through paper. And of course, any extra safety gear, like gloves or a stronger mask, is permitted. 

As for those "I voted" stickers — you can pick those up on tables yourself to avoid any person-to-person contact. 

One more thing... it's more like 'election week'

Under Minnesota law, all ballots postmarked by Aug. 11 and received by Aug. 13 will be counted. This means we won't get finalized results until later in the week – with unofficial results expected Thursday night or Friday morning, according to a Minneapolis press release. 

Have more questions? Here's a link to the Secretary of State Election Day information section. 

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