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Our View: Pandemic primary today too important to skip

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If you’re not among the many thousands of Minnesotans who’ve already voted absentee — whether in-person at a government building or by mail — there’s still time to cast your ballot. But time is running out. Today is primary election day and our last chance to trim the fields of candidates and incumbents who move on to Election Day on Nov. 3.

Let’s call it our pandemic primary. We’ve never seen anything like today’s vote.

At polling places, election judges will be nonstop sterile-wiping everything from tabletops to voting machines to even the pens. Everyone will be required to wear masks. And lines almost certainly will stretch out doorways, not necessarily because of a huge turnout but because voters will be required to wait at least six feet from each other.

All in the name of not spreading the coronavirus, of course. Everyone who’s eligible should vote, but no one should have to accept unnecessary health risks to do so. Thus the many precautions. And the many who chose to vote early.

At the conclusion of today’s primary, don’t expect results in time for the 10 o’clock news or even the morning paper, either, like we’ve grown accustomed to.

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“It might take a few days or up to a week until ballots are all in and counted,” Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a statement Friday to the media. “This doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong. For the primary, the Minnesota Legislature granted 48 hours of relief after Election Day to allow election officials sufficient time to count ballots. When you see the delay in reporting, know that it is by design, by law. Our commitment to accuracy and maintaining our longstanding system of safe, secure elections remains strong. This year, it’s just going to take more time. …

“I’m asking for patience,” Simon said.

That’s not too much to ask, considering that absentee ballots will still be coming in after today. In Duluth, absentee ballots can be dropped off until 3 p.m. today at City Hall (and not at polling places). Ballots being mailed back can be postmarked today and will be accepted through the close of business Thursday.

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.

The races in Duluth and across the Northland are too important to accept anything less than complete and accurate results. Five Democrats and five Republicans are running for Minnesota’s junior U.S. Senate seat, with one candidate from each party moving on to Election Day. U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber of Hermantown has a Republican challenger in Duluth’s Harry Welty for the chance to face Democrat Quinn Nystrom in November. Three candidates are vying to replace Beth Olson on the St. Louis County Board, representing western Duluth; two will advance. And there are DFL primaries for Minnesota Senate both on the Iron Range (Sen. David Tomassoni vs.Christopher Horoshak, with the winner facing Republican John Moren) and in Duluth (Sen. Erik Simonson vs. Jen McEwen, with the winner facing Republican Donna Bergstrom).

Voting is our duty and responsibility as citizens and as members of our community. All of us who are eligible to vote have a voice, and no one should let their voice go silent when it’s time to choose our elected leaders. We can remember instead that voting is a privilege and that in the early days of our nation, most states allowed only wealthy white men to vote. Over decades, many courageous individuals, most notably women and African-Americans, fought hard for and even died to win the right to vote for all of us. Going to the polls is not something to be taken for granted. It's an opportunity, one denied to citizens in far too many other nations.

So if you haven’t already, grab your face mask and go vote in the 2020 primary. Don’t leave it to others to decide who the candidates are in November. Don’t pass on the opportunity to participate.

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