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Protecting Election 2020 from Covid-19: A Toolkit for Minnesota Activists

If the Covid-19 pandemic continues into November, we will need to change our election practices to make sure voters don’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We have the solutions to make our elections both safe and accessible to all. And with this toolkit, you will know what reforms your state needs and where to focus your efforts.

Last Updated: August 24, 2020
Published: July 14, 2020

This is part of the Brennan Center’s Toolkits for Activists Across the Nation.

Jump to a section: 
Political Context  |  What's in Place and What’s Needed  |  Key Dates

Administering an election under pandemic conditions requires undertaking steps to keep voting accessible, safe, and secure. The guide below lays out the problems Covid-19 poses, what preparedness measures Minnesota has, and what changes are still needed. But first, we offer some political context for your advocacy.


Advocacy Focus: Local Reform

Local officials have a lot of responsibility over elections. They are a great place to focus advocacy efforts. Though state officials can make any of the changes in this toolkit, we highlight some examples of changes that local elections officials can also make with this symbol:🔸


Political Context

Below is a list of the relevant officials and information about the legislative session.

Governor: Tim Walz (DFL)

Secretary of State: Steve Simon (DFL)

Legislature: House (DFL) Senate (R)

Legislative Session: The legislature adjourned on May 17, 2020, but they convened for a special legislative session on August 12, 2020. Only the governor can call a special legislative session.

Local Election Officials: In Minnesota, a number of county and local officials share responsibilities for administering elections. You can look up individual county officials here and you can see what powers local and county election officials have here

What Minnesota Has and What’s Needed

Three priorities. There are three key areas where we need to shore up our elections systems for success during a pandemic: registration, mail voting, and in-person voting.

Registration

Covid-19 may disrupt the traditional ways Americans register to vote, like get out the vote drives or registering at government agencies. In the crucial weeks before the registration deadline, postal service disruptions may lead many registration forms to arrive at election offices after the deadline.

Preparatory Measures Minnesota Already Has Taken:

  • Online voter registration
  • Voter registration at the polling place on Election Day

Changes Still Needed:

  • Prepare to extend mail and online voter registration deadlines based on conditions in the state

Voting by Mail

Because of Covid-19, long lines and crowds at the polls pose health risks not seen in previous elections. Allowing every citizen to vote by mail reduces the number of people at the polls on Election Day and decreases the exposure risk to Covid-19.

Preparatory Measures Minnesota Already Has Taken:

  • All voters can vote by mail without an excuse
  • Online tool for requesting an absentee ballot
  • No ID requirement to vote by mail
  • No notary or witness requirement for return of mail ballot
  • Provides pre-paid postage for voting by mail
  • Accepts late-arriving ballots postmarked by Election Day

Changes Still Needed:

  • Provide post-election notice and cure opportunity for defects on absentee ballots envelope, including signature mismatch and problems with witness signatures
  • Send absentee-ballot applications to all active and inactive voters who have not yet applied

In-Person Voting

Even with expanded mail voting opportunity, states cannot close polling places. To do so may disenfranchise voters without Internet and mail access, or those who do not wish to cast a ballot by mail. In-person voting must be done in accordance with health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Preparatory Measures Minnesota Already Has Taken: 

  • In-person early voting

Changes Still Needed:

  • Ensure sufficient polling places are open and resourced on Election Day🔸
  • Open more in-person early voting locations🔸
  • Take proper public health precautions to ensure safe polling places🔸
  • Hold training sessions for polling-place workers well in advance of Election Day, so that election officials can better anticipate problems with staffing and logistics🔸
  • Increase access to curbside voting at polling locations

Advocacy Focus: Protecting Polling Places

No matter how prepared Minnesota is as a matter of policy, elections officials and advocates must stay vigilant about ensuring safe, healthy in-person voting is an option for everyone all the way through Election Day. Here are some important things to know about who makes decisions about polling places in Minnesota and what rules govern the process:

  • Local election officials must apply to the Secretary of State in order to receive grant funding under H.F. 3429 for the purposes of holding safe and secure elections during this pandemic.🔸
  • State law establishes a presumption against changing polling locations within 90 days of an election.🔸

Key Dates for Minnesota Elections

  • June 26, 2020: First day of early voting for the Primary Election
  • July 21, 2020: Deadline to register by mail or online to vote in the Primary Election
  • August 10, 2020: Last day of early voting for the Primary Election
  • August 11, 2020: Primary Election Day
  • September 18, 2020: First day of early voting for the General Election
  • October 13, 2020: Deadline to register by mail or online to vote in the General Election
  • November 2, 2020: Last day of early voting for the General Election
  • November 3, 2020: General Election Day