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Cast your ballot: Minnesota the first state to kick off voting season

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Election day in Minnesota is Nov. 4.

Or today, if you want. Your call.

Beginning Friday, Sept. 19, Minnesotans can begin casting votes via absentee ballot.

According to a Washington Post graphic, it's the earliest first day of voting in the U.S. for the 2014 midterm election. Minnesota is the only state to start allowing votes that day, though four states – South Dakota, Maine, Delaware and Vermont – open the door to voting the following day.

And some spots in Minnesota even started collecting those absentee votes earlier.

Olmsted County began allowing votes on Monday, the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports. Seven additional counties also began allowing voting before Friday, the Secretary of State's office told the paper.

And absentee voting in Minnesota has more relaxed standards than ever. In 2013, the state Legislature approved no-excuse absentee voting.

What does that mean? Well for the first time ever, Minnesotans won't be required to have a reason when choosing to absentee vote.

Previously, Minnesota voters had to prove they were physically unable to reach a polling place in order to vote absentee, the Star Tribune explained. The no-excuse voting means a voter can get an absentee ballot for whatever reasons they like.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says Minnesota is the 27th state to implement no-excuse absentee voting.

Advocates, the paper said, say the no-excuse rule makes voting easier, encouraging more people to do so. The ACLU shortly after the law passed said the move "promises to alleviate some long voting lines and allows more citizens to participate."

But there can be drawbacks, as MinnPost noted. Election costs could go up, because of the extra paperwork and procedural work that comes with absentee voting, the site said. In addition, some opponents saw opportunities for voter fraud.

You can request an absentee ballot either online or in person by going to the Secretary of State's website. The ballots can be cast by mail, in person, or by having someone you know pick up and deliver the ballot. You can also track the status of your absentee ballot by going here.

If you need to register to vote, you can do so until 11:59 p.m. Oct. 14, with the option to register online available (though the ability to do so has been the source of much political and legal back-and-forth in the past 12 months). Otherwise, you can register to vote on the day of the election.

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