Election Day is just under two weeks away, but many Minnesotans have already cast their vote through the state's new no-excuse absentee voting.
As of Tuesday, 135,051 absentee ballots were distributed to voters for the Nov. 4 election – 55,488 have been returned and accepted by election officials, according to a secretary of state news release.
The hope with the no-excuse absentee ballot is higher voter turnout. So far, election officials have seen a 55 percent increase over past midterm elections, WCCO reports.
Of the total absentee ballots distributed, more than 27,755 were requested through the Secretary of State's website.
Those who have requested ballots to be mailed to them are encouraged to track the status of their ballot to ensure it can be returned by Election Day. Those who don't see a record of their absentee ballot request are asked to re-submit another request or contact their county elections office.
Minnesotans are also allowed to vote absentee in person and many cities and counties are offering extended hours to do so.
The Hennepin Government Complex absentee voting hours have been extended this weekend and next week leading up to the election:
- Saturday Oct. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Monday Oct. 27 through Friday Oct. 31 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Saturday Nov. 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Monday Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If voters aren't able or don't choose to submit an absentee ballot, the polls will be open on Election Day (Tuesday Nov. 4) from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in most cities. Find your polling place and specific hours here.
To request a ballot, or for more information on how to vote absentee, click here.
Although Minnesota has expanded its absentee voting eligibility, DFL Secretary of state candidate Steve Simon said Wednesday that Minnesota should join the 33 states that allow early voting, which would allow ballots to be processed before Election Day. That would ease congestion at the polls and be a cost-saver for election officials, according to the Star Tribune.
Currently, absentee ballots are counted after the polls close on Election Day.
Republican candidate for Secretary of State Dan Severson also agrees with early voting, as long as there's a system in place to verify the voters.
He has also proposed a system where voters can voluntarily show their ID to go through a faster line at the polling place, according to MPR News. Currently, an ID is not required to vote in Minnesota.
However, Simon argues that the "express lane" voting would segregate voters.
The Secretary of State seat is open because Democrat Mark Ritchie is retiring. Four candidates are vying for the seat and they're scheduled to appear at a League of Women Voters forum at Augsburg College Oct. 28, MPR says.
Secretary of State is just one seat being decided Nov. 4. Minnesotans will also decide the governor, a U.S. Senate seat, Minnesota's eight U.S. House seats, attorney general, state auditor, all Minnesota State House seats, as well as many county commissioners, county sheriffs, county attorneys, auditors, treasurers and recorders.