ST. PAUL — Minnesotans on Tuesday, Aug. 11, will once again get to hit the ballot box for statewide congressional and legislative primaries, choosing which candidates in the state's four major parties get to advance to November's general election.
But Tuesday's primary will likely be different than any other in recent memory: The first election since the novel coronavirus took hold in Minnesota, there will likely be fewer voters at the polls, as thousands have requested absentee ballots. For those who do vote in-person, they will be required to wear masks or face coverings, and abide by health officials' social distancing recommendations. And Minnesotans may not know election results for days.
Here are some basics for Minnesotans who plan to vote in this month's primaries:
Do I have to wear a mask to vote?
Currently, in accordance with Gov. Tim Walz's executive order on masking indoors, Minnesotans need to wear a mask or face covering when voting inside public buildings, unless they have a medical condition deeming a mask hazardous. A group of lawmakers and voters have challenged this rule in federal court.
I'm voting by absentee ballot. When is my ballot due?
For the Aug. 11 primary and Nov. 3 general election, absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day. For the primary, absentee ballots will be accepted as long as they arrive to their local elections office within two days for the primary. For the general election, officials will accept ballots that arrive within seven days of election day.
I'm voting via absentee ballot and am quarantining alone. Do I still need a witness signature?
No, the Secretary of State's Office has waived Minnesota's usual requirement for a witness signature on absentee ballots in light of the pandemic. You do not need a witness signature.
Can I still register to vote on primary Election Day?
Yes, Minnesota allows for same-day registration. To register in-person on Election Day, bring a valid form of identification and proof of residence.
Who is on the ballot on Tuesday, Aug. 11?
Voters on primary day can choose which candidate from the state's four major parties they want to see advance to November's general election. One primary winner from each party will appear on November ballots in congressional and legislative races. Minnesotans already voted in presidential primaries on Super Tuesday in March.
Minnesota's four major parties are the Republican, Democratic-Farmer-Labor, Legalize Marijuana Now and Legalize Cannabis Parties.
For more information on which primary candidates will be on your ballot, you can see a sample ballot on the Secretary of State's website.
When will we know election results?
In a Friday, Aug. 7, news release, Secretary of State Steve Simon braced Minnesotans to expect delays in seeing primary results. He said the public is accustomed to finding out results on election night, but because of significantly increased absentee ballot demand, "It's going to be different this year." Absentee ballots tend to take local elections officials longer to process.
"It might take a few days, or up to a week until ballots are all in and counted," Simon said. "This doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong. ... When you see the delay in reporting, know that it is by design, by law. Our commitment to accuracy and maintaining our longstanding system of safe, secure elections remains strong."
So, what will we know on election night?
Simon said Minnesotans can expect to know the final number of absentee ballots that were requested by voters (though not necessarily the total number returned), and how many Minnesotans voted in-person at a polling place.