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Absentee voting starts early this year

Absentee voting started Friday, under a new, earlier schedule designed to give military and overseas voters more time to cast their ballots.

Voters who will be away from their home precinct on Election Day can vote absentee in person at a county auditor's office or city clerk's office. Or they can vote absentee by mail.

Absentee voting runs through on Nov. 1, the day before the election.

Minnesota law has a short list of reasons allowing voters to cast absentee ballots, including absence, illness or disability, religious observances or quarantine. Voters who serve as election judges in another precinct can also vote absentee.

Minnesota voters serving in the military and those who will be overseas on Election Day should apply now for their absentee ballots, according to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

Minnesota law allows military personnel and voters overseas the option of receiving their ballots electronically but requires the voters to return their ballots by mail.

"County election officials are accepting applications now," Ritchie said. "If you are in the military or planning on being overseas on Election Day, submit an absentee ballot application to your county auditor and request that your ballot be either e-mailed or faxed to you. Applying now will ensure that you receive your ballot immediately when they become available and give you more time to mail it back to Minnesota to be counted on Nov. 2."

Ritchie encouraged military and overseas voters to visit and use the free service to help guide them through the process of how to apply successfully for their ballot.

In 2008, the office created this easy-to-use online service designed specifically for military and overseas voters.

More than 5,000 Minnesotans used it to request their absentee ballots while abroad in 2008.

The absentee balloting period for the Nov. 2 general election started Friday. The period was extended this year to provide military personnel and voters overseas more time to participate in general elections.

"We have worked with the legislature and governor to implement reforms to ensure that Minnesotans can participate in democracy no matter if they are serving in Afghanistan, studying in Norway, or conducting business in Hong Kong," Ritchie said.

"It has been my top priority to find ways to remove barriers to voting, especially for those serving our nation abroad," said Ritchie.

"That is why I strongly supported legislation that allows for a longer absentee balloting period so that members of our armed forces have sufficient time to vote and mail their ballots back by Election Day. It is my hope that the new election law changes will continue to increase the numbers of military and overseas ballots that arrive on or before Election Day."

Additional information on voter eligibility and registration is available by visiting the secretary of state's voter webpage: