Absentee voting for the general election begins Friday, Sept. 18, in Minnesota. Depending on the voter's address, there are a few different options for those who want to follow the recommendation to avoid going to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 3, due to COVID-19.
"If we can spread out voting over that 46-day period, that's beneficial," Duluth City Clerk Chelsea Helmer said. "That allows us to accommodate better social distancing and not having a crush of folks coming in just on Election Day."
Those who haven't yet requested an absentee ballot are encouraged to do so as soon as possible to ensure a timely delivery. Voters can request an absentee ballot at mnvotes.org. Duluth residents can also do so at duluthmn.gov/city-clerk.
The American Civil Liberties Union reported on Thursday it had reached an agreement with Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon to mail an absentee ballot application to all Minnesotans who had not yet requested one no later than 40 days before the election.
“This agreement is a major victory for Minnesotans because it ensures that all voters now have access to absentee voting, even those without internet service, which is nearly a quarter of the population," Theresa Lee, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, said in a media release. "Minnesotans will no longer have to choose between their health and their vote."
Unlike past elections, a witness is not required for registered voters voting from home in the 2020 general election ballots. However, non-registered voters need a witness.
Those voting absentee are encouraged to mail their completed ballot by Oct. 26, according to the city of Duluth. Any ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 will be accepted until the end of the business day Nov. 10.
Anyone voting by mail can check on the status of their ballot by visiting mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/AbsenteeBallotStatus.aspx.
In Wisconsin, in-person absentee voting begins Tuesday, Oct. 20.
As of Thursday, Helmer said the city of Duluth had received about 15,000 absentee ballot requests. That number increases each day. Duluth residents who request absentee ballots can expect to start receiving them in the mail no sooner than Wednesday.
"It does take us a couple days to get that initial large batch of ballots out the door," Helmer said.
The city can start mailing ballots Friday, Sept. 18.
Also beginning Friday, Duluth residents can vote in person from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at Duluth City Hall, 411 W. First St., according to a news release from the city. Voters do not need an appointment and can enter the building from Priley Drive. Safety protocols are in place and masks will be available to voters.
Extended hours for absentee in-person voting in Duluth begin Tuesday, Oct. 27, when people can vote from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. Those hours will be in place through Saturday, Oct. 31. The last day for early voting will be Monday, Nov. 2, when the hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Those voting from home in Duluth have the option of returning their ballots by mail or by delivering them to City Hall, where there are a couple drop-off boxes available. At any hour of the day, voters can use a drive-up drop-off box located in the parking lot off Second Street.
Otherwise, a drop-off box is available in City Hall and can be accessed through the doors off Priley Drive. A security camera monitors both boxes at all hours. Both boxes are emptied at least once a day.
Starting Friday, Hermantown residents can absentee vote in person from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the Hermantown City Hall, 5105 Maple Grove Road. Those voting from home are welcome to drop off their ballots at City Hall during those hours.
City Clerk Bonnie Engseth said more than 1,500 residents have applied for absentee voting. All the envelopes are prepped and awaiting their ballots from St. Louis County.
"We plan on getting them all out on Friday after receiving them from the county," Engseth said. "I will stay late if I have to. I’m getting it done."
Along with Duluth, Hermantown City Hall is one of several that will be open to absentee voters for extended hours the Saturday and Monday before Election Day. On Saturday, Oct. 31, Hermantown residents can vote from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Monday, Nov. 2, they can vote from 8 a.m. 5 p.m.
As of Thursday, the city of Hibbing had received more than 2,000 requests for absentee ballots, City Clerk Mary Ann Kaepler said.
"I’m thinking we will have them all processed so people who are signed up ahead of time should get them by Oct. 1," said Kaepler, adding that those who applied early and don't receive their ballots by then should give the city a call.
Those living within the city of Hibbing can vote from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at Hibbing City Hall, 401 E. 21st St. Voters can deliver their filled-out absentee ballots to City Hall during those times if they don't want to mail it.
On Saturday, Oct. 31, City Hall will be open to voters from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and until 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2.
Virginia residents who want to vote absentee in person can do so from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at Virginia City Hall, 327 First St. S. Absentee voters who vote from home can deliver their ballots to City Hall during those times.
Like the other cities offering in-person absentee voting, Virginia City Hall will be open to voters from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and until 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2.
The city of Virginia has received nearly 1,000 requests for absentee ballots so far.
Carlton County residents can vote in person prior to Election Day at the Carlton County Courthouse, 301 Walnut Ave., Carlton. The auditor's office will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
On Saturday, Oct. 31, the office will be open to voters 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Monday, Nov. 2, until 5 p.m.
A drop-off box will be available inside the main doors of the courthouse for those voting from home who don't want to mail in their vote.
Lake County residents who want to vote absentee in person must make an appointment with the Lake County auditor's office by calling 218-834-8315. Due to COVID-19, county offices are closed to the public.
Voters living elsewhere
Residents of townships and unorganized towns in St. Louis County can vote early in person from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the county's auditor offices at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth or the Virginia Government Services Center. The addresses are 100 N. 5th Ave. W. in Duluth and 201 S. 3rd Ave W. in Virginia.
Those who want to vote there should call ahead or email email@example.com. The Duluth number is 218-726-2385 and the Virginia number is 218-749-7104.
The offices will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, and until 5 p.m. the Monday before Election Day.
There's also a drop-off box for absentee ballots at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth entrance and at the Virginia Government Services Center.
Those living in city limits elsewhere in St. Louis County can likely participate in in-person absentee voting at their city hall. A full list of those locations can be found under the "absentee voting" tab at stlouiscountymn.gov/departments-a-z/auditor/elections-voting.
For Northland residents looking for more information on in-person absentee voting at a location not included in the story, visit sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/find-county-election-office to find the contact information for your local election official.
Not all communities are offering in-person absentee voting or drop-off boxes for absentee ballots.
This story originally misstated what type of voting begins in Wisconsin on Oct. 20. In-person absentee voting starts that day. The story was updated at 1:09 p.m. Sept. 18. The News Tribune regrets the error.
This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. Sept. 18 with additional information from St. Louis County on in-person absentee voting. It was originally posted at 6:03 p.m. Sept. 17.