Focus on New Laws: No-Excuse Absentee Voting

Beginning in August 2014, voters will no longer be required to provide a reason for applying to vote absentee.
(Published Aug 19, 2013)

Chapter 131 includes many changes to election law and administration. One of the most notable is the elimination of the requirement of an “excuse” to vote absentee in Minnesota.

Currently, if a voter is unable to be in his or her polling place, the voter may request an absentee ballot for the following reasons:

  • Absence from precinct.
  • Illness or disability.
  • Service as an election judge in another precinct.
  • Religious discipline or observance of religious holiday.
  • Eligible emergency declared by the governor or quarantine declared by the federal or state government.

Starting with the state primary on Aug. 12, 2014, no reason will be required for voting absentee. Voters can request an absentee ballot to be sent to them to vote by mail, or vote absentee in person where elections are administered in their area (office of the county auditor or city or township clerk’s office) starting 46 days prior to Election Day.

In addition, election officials may begin to process absentee ballots seven days before Election Day, rather than the four days previously provided in statute. Elections administrators sought this extension to alleviate time pressures during the weekend immediately before Election Day.

While city elections officials have welcomed the extension of time for processing absentee ballots, there is concern regarding the anticipated increase in voters voting absentee once an excuse for doing so is no longer required. Processing absentee ballots requires significantly more time and resources than what is required when voters cast their ballots on Election Day. The League supports the establishment of early voting so that those who are unable to be in their polling place on Election Day can vote ahead of time by placing their ballot directly in the tabulator.

Learn more about no-excuse absentee voting from the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website

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