Regular Session Chapter 62, which was passed in the 2023 legislative session, contained several changes to current law regarding the administration of absentee voting. Municipalities that administer absentee voting in their jurisdictions have a new early voting process to follow. Early voting will replace the current in-person absentee or “direct balloting” process beginning as early as 2024.
New early voting process
“Early voting,” defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 203B.30, means voting in person before election day. An eligible voter may use early voting during the 18 days before a federal, state, or county election and during the 18 days before a municipal election in which the city clerk has been designated to administer absentee voting.
Cities that administer absentee voting currently provide in-person absentee voting during the seven days leading up to an election. Starting Jan. 1, 2024, or the 85th day after the revisor of statutes receives certification, whichever is later. This will be replaced with an 18-day early voting period:
- Instead of conducting in-person absentee voting, cities will conduct early voting in essentially the same manner as election day voting.
- Voters will check in or register, sign the voter certification, receive, and complete their ballot, then place their ballot directly into a tabulator.
- The county auditor will supply materials no later than 19 days before the election.
Expanded direct balloting timeline for 2023 elections
While early voting doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2024, or later, depending on certification, amendments to the statute extend the absentee direct balloting timeline for elections occurring in 2023 from seven days to 18 days before an election, until this process is replaced with early voting:
- For elections in 2023, the ballot board is authorized to accept ballots, begin opening secrecy envelopes, and process mail ballots after the close of the business day 19 days before the election.
- Those cities that hold odd-year elections, and cities with a special election in 2023, will need to follow the 18-day timeline for absentee direct balloting for those elections.
Expanded early voting hours during general elections
Beginning with the 2024 general election, cities will be required to be open for early voting on the following days and times for any general election:
- Until 7 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election.
- From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the two Saturdays before the election.
- From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Sunday immediately before the election.
- Until 5 p.m. on the day before the election.
Cities will need to plan for these extended hours when working on their annual budget and when hiring and scheduling election judges.