Just because mail-only voting doesn’t look probable, even during a pandemic, that doesn’t mean you can’t vote by mail.
In fact, voting absentee through the mail is easier than ever for Minnesota primary voters. A recent lawsuit settlement means you no longer need a witness to watch you sign your absentee ballot.
The political arms of the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans and the League of Women Voters-Minnesota sued the state, arguing that its witness requirement would put people’s health at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And despite some Republican lawmakers criticizing Secretary of State Steve Simon for accepting an agreement and waiving the requirement for the Aug. 11 primary, it was absolutely the right decision. Their cry of voter fraud potential rings hollow. Only 12 states even have a witness or notary requirement.
No one should have to compromise their health to track down a witness to sign their absentee ballot affidavit. Senior citizens and those who are immune-compromised especially shouldn’t have that extra stress and risk.
For a couple of years now, absentee voting has been available to every eligible voter in Minnesota — no excuse needed anymore for voting early instead of in person at the polls. In 2018, there were 173 people in the first week of applying for an absentee ballot. In 2020, in the first week, there were 36,880 people asking for an absentee ballot. As of Friday, more than 207,000 absentee ballot applications statewide had been received, up from 8,000 at the same time in 2018.
Obviously, Minnesotans want this option.
The new decision to drop the witness requirement enables voters to do their civic duty and feel good about doing so without exposing themselves to extra risk. Unfortunately, the recent agreement on dropping the witness requirement doesn’t apply to the Nov. 3 election.
In the meantime, voters can get their ballots for the primary by visiting the secretary of state’s website and following a few easy steps (https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/). Residents also can request a mailed absentee ballot through their county’s election office.
Voters still can vote in person either early at their county election office or at the polls on Aug. 11, but they don’t have to. And during a pandemic, that choice and the ability to easily vote absentee through the mail make the utmost sense.