How absentee voting works in Minnesota

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How absentee voting works in Minnesota

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Following the U.S. Senate recount and election contest in 2008, there was a heightened scrutiny of the Minnesota absentee ballot process. Some concerns were expressed about the consistency of the absentee voting process to which reform proposals were offered. However, decisions on whether reform is necessary and, if it is necessary, how to change the system will only be effective if they are carefully grounded in understanding the actual operation of the absentee ballot systems in Minnesota. An accurate understanding of absentee voting requires an understanding of the entire process. Individual aspects of absentee voting are critical but the consideration of reform depends upon an appreciation of how the individual components fit together. This document consists of a series of flowcharts to illustrate how the entire absentee voting process works currently. Several key observations should be clear. To begin with, there are distinct processes for each stage of absentee voting – obtaining a ballot, casting a ballot, and the review of the ballot to determine if it meets specified requirements. Secondly, there are distinct differences between types of absentee voting – including individuals receiving a domestic absentee ballot to those voting from the military or overseas. Lastly, this process is highly decentralized with the absentee voting process handled entirely at the local level – either by the county, or in some cases, larger cities. The hope is that this document will help to illustrate and demonstrate the complexity and details of Minnesota’s absentee voting process so that any reform proposals can be carefully grounded on accurate knowledge of the system. This will ultimately be important to guard against unanticipated consequences, misallocation of resources, and to properly balance competing considerations.

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Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, UMN

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Smith, Rachel. (2009). How absentee voting works in Minnesota. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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