Minnesotans will no longer have to stretch the truth to get an absentee ballot. A new law, approved overwhelmingly last year, will allow voters to request absentee ballots regardless of whether they can get to their polling places on Election Day. The program, coupled with online tools that will let voters register online and check the status of their ballots, is part of a nationwide movement to make voting easier. Minnesota’s law doesn’t go as far as those in some states, where vote-by-mail and early voting have become commonplace, but its supporters say the changes will help the state maintain its best-in-the-nation turnout status. “I think anything that permits more people to vote, as long as they are doing so lawfully, is a boon,” said DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. “The more people who will vote, the better off we’ll be.”
The changes will further speed up an election cycle that already seems to start earlier every year. This year, absentee ballots for the Aug. 12 primary will be available starting Friday.
Republicans are promoting the new absentee ballots at county fairs and campaign offices as a way to get people to shake off the summer doldrums and vote in the primary. The GOP has even set up a website and prepared postcards to let Minnesotans know they can vote early by mail. “We’re looking to encourage as many people to turn out to vote as possible here,” said Republican Party Deputy Chairman Chris Fields. For the first time in decades, Republicans are holding contested primaries in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races.
Before the change, Minnesotans voting absentee had to attest that they would be physically unable to get to their polling places because of travel, illness or several other specific reasons. Now no explanation will be necessary. “Finally, we’ve joined the rest of the nation,” said Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.