MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An unprecedented number of Minnesotans are expected to vote absentee in this upcoming election. For many of them, this way of voting is new. So, where does a voter start this process? Good Question.

“The first thing you should do is get an application,” says Andy Lokken, director of elections in Dakota County.

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The easiest way to do that is by going to the Secretary of State’s website. There, a voter can fill out an absentee application — either online or by printing if out and sending to their local county election office.

Some WCCO viewers have asked about mailers they’ve received from outside groups at their home that include a ballot applications. A popular one is from the Center for Voter Information.

Lokken says that organization and others obtain voter registration data from the Secretary of State’s office and send out ballot applications. Lokken says that application, when properly filled out, would be accepted by a local election office.

“As long as they have all the elements, the data on them and they’re returned to an election office, it’s legit,” he says.

Facebook and Instagram have also been offering links to voting resources as well. Often, those links direct people back to the Secretary of State’s website.

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Minnesotans can request an absentee ballot without being registered to vote. Once a county election office receives an application, it checks to make sure the person is registered. If that person is not registered, the county will send additional materials along with the ballot to get registered.

How long a ballot takes to reach a voter will depend partly on the mail. Dakota County said it will send a ballot out within 24 hours after receiving a properly completed application. Hennepin County said its goal is one to two days, but could take up to a week. Ramsey County said it will turn around a ballot within three days, but can often get it in mail within 24 hours.

If a person improperly fills out the absentee ballot application, the county election office will notify them. Sometimes the issues can be resolved over the phone, but it often requires a person re-submit their application.

If a voter chooses to vote absentee in person, the application and voting may be completed in one visit.

“The voter must still fill out an absentee ballot application, will be provided their ballot materials, can vote and complete the process all at one time,” said Susan Fritze, deputy elections manager with Hennepin County.

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The Secretary of State’s Office has a tracker that allows people to track their absentee ballot along the entire process — from when it was requested to when it was sent to the voter to a confirmation that it’s been accepted.

Heather Brown