This election year is pretty interesting to say the least. With just a couple of weeks until Election Day, we are definitely in the heart of campaign season and, of course, a pandemic. It’s important we know how to cast our vote and what is on the ballot. Regardless of your political preferences, the greater our participation in this democratic process, the better.
Here are some important things to do before you cast your ballot.
Be sure you are registered to vote. You can check your status by visiting the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website (www.mnvotes.org). If you are not registered to vote, you can visit your county office, or request a ballot using the www.mnvotes.org website no later than the day before the election, but give time for your local county office to send out a ballot.
Many precincts, like mine, have closed their polling places due to the pandemic and are conducting mail-in voting only. Voters can use the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, or other parcel delivery companies. If you are registered and requested a mail-in ballot, the ballot will be mailed within 30 days of the election. When returning your ballot by mail, it must be postmarked on or before November 3rd and must be received by your county office no later than November 10th, seven days after Election Day. The increase in postal traffic means we should get ballots mailed a few days before November 3rd to be sure it arrives on time. I plan to get my ballot mailed early, just like I do when sending packages during the holidays. We may not have definitive results on November 3rd since ballots may still be arriving at county offices through November 10th.
Folks can also drop off their mail-in ballots in person at the address on the ballot, not their polling place, no later than 3 p.m. on Election Day. A person may also drop off ballots for up to three other voters, but you will need to show identification with a name and signature when dropping off for other voters. Since my polling place is closed, I could decide to go vote in person at my county office, but I only get to vote once. I can check the status of my ballot through the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. This way I will know when my ballot is counted.
What’s on my ballot this year? I am often surprised at all the options on my ballot. We tend to see a lot of state and national political ads from the two major political parties this time of year. Meanwhile, we see on the ballot many more city, county, school district, and judicial races that might have greater local impact. And, not to forget, we might have a local referendum or two on there as well. The Minnesota Secretary of State’s website has a great tool called What’s on My Ballot. Here, I can find a sample ballot by inputting my address.
Then here’s the other thing. Getting to know our candidates should take more than scrolling social media. Typically, we learn more about candidates by meeting them at the fair, chatting with them in town, or attending campaign events. We will have to interact much more cautiously given the pandemic but we do have options. Candidates are still holding limited in-person events, using social media, doing radio interviews, and providing information on their webpages. Do not rely on candidate information from their rival’s attack ads, unchecked social media feeds, or biased media sources. Be wary of misinformation. No comprehensive policy is as simple as a sound bite. Find out what values connect with you. Be open to having respectful discussions with your social groups.
I’ve voted in many elections, for many different parties, write-in candidates, and “for” or “against” things that I felt were important to me. That freedom to vote is pretty awesome. Make your vote count.
Nate Dorr, Vice President for Advocacy
Northwest Minnesota Foundation