By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Friday, Minnesotans will be able to begin voting early. That could be in-person at a city or county election office. For many, it will mean voting by mail.

While the vast majority of Minnesotans have historically had no problems with casting their ballots through the mail, 2% of the absentee ballots in the August primary were rejected at first. (Some were later replaced, which would bring down that percentage, but the State doesn’t track that data.)

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“The whole system is designed to talk people through it,” said Andy Lokken, director of elections for Dakota County.

The number one reason absentee ballots were rejected in August was they came in too late. According to election officials, that shouldn’t be a major issue for this upcoming general election. That’s because the deadline has been changed by the courts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mailed-in absentee ballots must be postmarked by election day, but the ballots will still be accepted up until a week later.

The second biggest reason a mail-in absentee ballot was rejected was that the voter’s signature and voter ID number didn’t match. The voter ID number is either a person’s driver’s license/ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Along with a signature, it’s required for the ballot to be counted.

“People forget which number they gave us all the time, so they call us and say which number did I put there, we can’t tell them, so we say to put them both,” Lokken said.

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The number three reason: no voter signature. And, number four: no witness signature.

The witness signature is also an important change for this general election. Due to the coronavirus, it’s not required for most mail-in ballots. Witness signatures are only required of a person is registering to vote at the same time.

The election office provides the postage for the ballot. In some places, voters will be able to drop off their ballots at county election offices or drop-boxes. Voters should contact their local elections office to see if those boxes are in their area.

Finally, if a voters makes a mistake that requires a ballot to be rejected, the county elections office will notify the voter and send out a new ballot.

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“We’ll do that until we run out of time,” said Lokken, who encourages people to vote early if they want to. “You get more chances if you get something wrong.”

Heather Brown