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Early voting: Welcome to Election Weeks

Pre-pandemic, no-excuse absentee voting was a time-saving convenience. Today it also serves a public health purpose.

Absentee ballot application
MinnPost photo illustration by Corey Anderson

The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.

Ready, set, vote.

Minnesota opens voting on Friday, 47 days before Election Day, which has become effectively the deadline for this most simple and most important of our civil duties. The Gopher State goes for the polls like none other; we regularly lead the nation in voter turnout. This long window of opportunity in which to vote is one of many reasons for that level of participation.

And Minnesotans enthusiastically embraced the expansion of absentee voting even before the coronavirus pandemic. Pre-pandemic, no-excuse absentee voting was a time-saving convenience. Today it also serves a public health purpose.

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Secretary of State Steve Simon told Minnesota Public Radio News this week already more than 80,000 requests for absentee ballots had been received. Simon said he expects absentee voting to account for more than a third of the state’s total. Since absentee votes made up more than half the votes in Minnesota’s lower-turnout primaries in August, that’s certainly plausible.

Minnesota is not unique in easing absentee voting, although few states have as lengthy a period for voting. Only six states still require a reason for absentee voting, and several states, mostly in the West, vote entirely by mail. A heavy dose of late-arriving absentee votes may elongate Election Night into the following days. It’s important to remember that a late vote count does not mean an invalid vote count.

President Donald Trump and his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, each plan to campaign Friday in Minnesota, underlining not only the opening of voting here but the competitive nature of the state in this election cycle. No Republican has won Minnesota’s electoral votes since Richard Nixon in 1972, but Trump fell some 45,000 votes of carrying Minnesota four years ago and vows to close that gap.

There are, of course, more offices at stake in the 2020 election than the presidency. Minnesota has its regularly scheduled Senate election for the seat now held by Tina Smith, who was appointed by then-Gov. Mark Dayton and won a special election in 2018 to fill out the term. All eight of the state’s House seats are up, as are all of the seats in the Minnesota Legislature and plenty of judicial, county and municipal offices.

So yes, there’s some homework to do. But once you know who you’re voting for, there’s this good reason to finish the job early: You can tune out what figures to be a noisy and distasteful gutter fight at the top of the ticket. Get ‘er done.

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Republished with permission.

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