We made it. Election Day is tomorrow. At this point, no one should need to be reminded anymore not to forget to vote. (Hey, who picked that editorial cartoon?) But there are a couple of things that demand reinforcing on this final day (thank heavens) of campaigning and barb throwing and mudslinging.
One, if you are in Minnesota and have an absentee ballot that you haven’t mailed back yet, don’t. Don’t mail it back. Not anymore. A bombshell ruling last week by a federal judicial panel determined that ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day won’t be counted. So any ballot dropped in the mail today is unlikely to be received before the deadline. The state had been planning on accepting ballots postmarked on Election Day, but that’s out now. Unless another lawsuit alters how Minnesota elections officials are to treat late ballots.
Instead of mailing back a completed absentee ballot at this late date, hand deliver it, officials instruct. Take it to your issuing jurisdiction or, before 3 p.m. on Election Day, drop it in an official ballot drop box. Locations include the Government Services Center in Virginia, behind the county courthouse off West Second Street in Duluth, and inside the Priley Circle entrance to Duluth City Hall. Or vote in-person on Election Day, being sure to wear a mask and to follow all guidelines put in place to protect public health.
If you’ve already mailed back an absentee ballot, you can track it online to make sure it was received and is counted. Go to mnvotes.org or stlouiscountymn.gov/vote. As of late last week, 47,000 eligible voters in St. Louis County had already voted absentee. Statewide, more than 1.58 million Minnesotans had cast votes early. Both are record numbers due to the convenience of voting from home and the desire to avoid polling places during a pandemic.
As disappointing as it is that there’s any uncertainty at all about whether an absentee ballot will be counted or received on time, with minimal and reasonable effort and attention, every eligible voter should be able to cast a ballot ahead of Tuesday’s 8 p.m. deadline.
A second reminder: Don't expect full election results in time for the 10 o'clock news Tuesday. Or even the morning paper, like we've grown accustomed to.
“With so many of us voting by mail, it may take a little longer to verify a winner,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a public service announcement released last week that also featured former Minnesota Govs. Tim Pawlenty, Mark Dayton, and Jesse Ventura.
Slower results are “OK,” Pawlenty said in the video. “It’s by design.”
“A delay just means that our system is working and that we’re counting every single ballot,” said Ventura.
No matter how long it takes, “You can have faith that your vote will be counted,” Dayton reassured.
The important message from the governors — Republican, DFL, and independent alike (and how refreshing is that?) — recalled a statement made by Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon this summer regarding the wait for elections results. “I'm asking for patience," he said then. That can be reiterated now.
And it’s not too much to ask. The expectation is for every ballot to be counted and for results to be unquestionably accurate, even if that means having to wait an extra day or two. Think of it as yet another new normal in a bizarre year filled with them. But also think of it as an easily achievable goal, even if this election is unlike any before it.
Minnesotans won’t be alone on the edges of their seats on Tuesday. Some states, including Wisconsin, don’t even begin counting mailed-in ballots until Election Day, U.S Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said in an interview, conducted virtually, with members of the News Tribune Editorial Board last week.
“Don’t be surprised if some states don’t have their numbers in (promptly). It doesn't mean it’s fraud. It just means they count their ballots later,” said Klobuchar. “Overall, especially in Minnesota, elections officials are doing their job. … In Minnesota we have a lot of experience with a lot of people voting. We have a lot of experience with early voting. We’re a little more ready to handle (an election turned upside down by a pandemic).”
That also is a reminder worth reinforcing.