Ahead of the start of voting this week, new state guidelines change absentee voting requirements
6/25/2020 Policy, Analysis, and Communications

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After multiple lawsuits at both the federal and state level, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office has changed the absentee voting process to remove the witness requirement and extend the deadline for submitting ballots for the 2020 primary. Voters considering how they prefer to cast a ballot this year will find these changes make voting by mail easier, ahead of the start of the absentee voting period this Friday.

Previously, Olmsted County had communicated that if you plan to early absentee vote by mail, you would need a witness when you vote and complete your ballot. We had also indicated that the ballot and forms should be mailed back right away because ballots will not count if they are received after Election Day.

Those previous requirements have changed due to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s new guidelines. Now, a witness is not required as part of the absentee voting process and absentee ballots will still be counted if received within two days following the August 11 Primary (but must be postmarked by Election Day). It is still essential to return ballots with enough time to ensure they meet the revised deadlines to be counted.

As a reminder, early absentee voting for the August 11 Primary begins June 26, 2020, while the absentee period for the November 3 General Election will start on September 18, 2020. To help protect the health and safety of the community and minimize the spread of COVID-19, Olmsted County encourages voters to consider voting by mail and learning about other absentee voting options.

“Absentee voting is a safe and fair process,” explained Olmsted County Director of Property Records and Licensing Mark Krupski. “No excuse absentee voting was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2013, so this isn’t something new. It was enacted for voter convenience and accessibility. I can assure all Olmsted County voters that they can be confident in our process. For every absentee ballot that comes in, we ensure the individual is either a registered voter or has accurately completed their voter registration. And, we verify that the signature on the signature envelope matches the signature on the application. This process is conducted by personnel trained for the purpose of uniformity in the process of accepting and rejecting returned absentee ballots and who have taken the election judge oath*. I have been doing elections for Olmsted County for 14 years; in that time, we’ve seen virtually no evidence of voter fraud by mail absentee ballots or in person.”

Earlier this month, Olmsted County mailed absentee ballot applications with a postage-paid return envelope to all registered voters in the county. Please note that some of the instructions related to the witness signature and deadline are now outdated and do not reflect these new decisions made by the Secretary of State. For requests already received, mail ballots for the August 11 Primary will start being sent out this Friday. It’s not too late to request a ballot, as ballots will continue to be mailed out as requests are received.

It is up to each voter to decide if they want to complete the absentee ballot application. Voters can also request an absentee ballot online. You do not have to be registered to vote to apply for an absentee ballot, but it makes the process easier. If you are not registered when requesting a mail ballot, you will also be sent a Voter Registration Application to fill out and return with your ballot. If you need to register or update your voter registration, you may also do that online anytime until 21 days before each election event.

Early absentee voting in person

In-person early absentee voting begins June 26 during normal business hours (8 a.m. - 5 p.m.) at the new Elections Office located at 2122 Campus Drive SE, Rochester, MN. Voting will no longer take place at Graham Park (1421 3rd Ave SE). In addition, one pop-up location will be set up the week before the August primary at the Government Center located at 151 4th Street SE, Rochester, MN. We will not have a pop-up voting location for the August 11 Primary at 125 Live as was previously planned; however, we are planning a second pop-up voting location for the General Election.

Sample ballot

Sample ballots are an excellent resource for preparing to vote. Voters can download their sample ballot via the Secretary of State’s Office website starting this week. A list of all candidates appearing on the ballot can be found, as well as a full example of the ballot that will be in a voter’s assigned precinct based on their home address.

More information

For the latest election updates and further details about voting in Olmsted County and the City of Rochester, Minnesota, including links to online tools, visit the following sites: 


*Election Judge Oath: “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will perform the duties of election judge according to law and the best of my ability and will diligently endeavor to prevent fraud, deceit and abuse in conducting this election. I will perform my duties in a fair and impartial manner and not attempt to create an advantage for my party or my candidate.”