Absentee voting is now open for Minnesota’s new presidential nomination primary on March 3 -- even though the ballots are coming late.
The ballots had not arrived at the Becker County Courthouse by the start of early voting at 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 17.
Auditor-Treasurer Mary Hendrickson learned Friday morning that the ballots aren't due to arrive until early next week, but temporary ballots are available now, so voters still have a full 46 days before the presidential primary election day to cast an absentee ballot. The temporary ballots are made into regular absentee ballots a week before election day. By law, they can't be opened until then.
President Donald Trump’s name is the only one on the Republican ballot in Minnesota. The ballot delay is due to a failed legal challenge filed last month by Republican presidential candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, who sought to be on the primary ballot in Minnesota.
The Forum reports that Clay County’s ballots had also been delayed.
On the ballots
For the Democrats, an early vote could be a wasted vote, since the field of candidates is still shaking out: There are now only 12 candidates in the race (including Minnesota’s own Amy Klobuchar) and 17 have dropped out.
The DFL’s ballot lists 15 candidates and an “uncommitted” option even if the field continues to shrink. It was submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office on Dec. 17 and can’t be changed.
Just this month, Democrats Cory Booker and Julian Castro dropped out of the race, and Kamala Harris dropped out last month. The field will likely become smaller still as top candidates pull away in the polls and the race heats up.
Only two major parties, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Republican Party, have submitted candidates for the ballot. Two other major parties, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party, have notified the secretary of state’s office that they will not participate.
Hoping to keep your party affiliation secret? You’re out of luck: How you voted on the ballot will be secret, but your choice of party ballot will be recorded and made available to the major political parties.
A voter must request the ballot of the party of their choice. If a voter refuses to select a party, they will not be able to vote in the presidential nomination primary, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
The presidential primary results are binding, and the vote is intended to make Minnesota more of a player in the presidential-nomination process, following early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, Hendrickson said. The Iowa Democratic caucuses are Feb. 3 and the New Hampshire vote is Feb. 11.
Minnesota’s vote will be counted on Super Tuesday, March 3, when 16 states, jurisdictions and entities, including big guns like California and Texas, hold their primaries. More than a third of the U.S. population is expected to vote that day.
Minnesota counties and cities will pay for the new election, estimated to cost about $11.9 million, but they will be fully reimbursed by the state.
And yes, there will still be precinct caucuses, and local and state nominating conventions will still take place to conduct other party business.
Precinct caucuses will be held Feb. 25, a week before the primary vote.