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(Oct. 30, 2020 Update: Lots of questions with the recent court ruling. There’s still misinformation and confusion, so the short version is this: If you’re voting absentee, it’s likely too late to mail your ballot and avoid having it potentially challenged. Drop it off at the dropbox in the entryway of West St. Paul’s city hall by 3 p.m. on election day. If you already mailed your absentee ballot, you can track it online to make sure it’s counted. If you’re worried it won’t be counted, you can still vote in-person on election day and that will cancel your absentee ballot.)
Thanks to COVID-19, there’s a massive increase in absentee and early voting. During the August primary, 57% of people in West St. Paul voted absentee. In 2018, it was only 11%. So we want to help clear up any confusion and make sure people know where and how to vote. For full details, you can always check out the Minnesota Secretary of State website.
Take a look at what’s on your ballot and be sure to check out our 2020 election coverage for details on local West St. Paul races (see our 2020 West St. Paul Voter’s Guide). If you’re not registered to vote, there are all kinds of options and information, including registering online.
There are three ways to vote:
1. Absentee Voting
Absentee voting begins September 18 and anyone can vote absentee for any reason. To vote absentee, you first need to apply for an absentee ballot. You can apply online or pick up a paper application at city hall or any Dakota County service center.
Once you have your absentee ballot you can mail it back, drop it off at a Dakota County service center, or place it in the drop box in the entryway at West St. Paul’s city hall. Returning your absentee ballot to city hall is the preferred option because you know it arrived and wasn’t lost or delayed in the mail. Ballots dropped off at a Dakota County service center will be delivered to city hall, so if you go straight to city hall you’re skipping that step. The entryway at city hall is open 24-7 and monitored for safety.
If you want to do absentee voting in one step, you can visit a Dakota County service center, apply for an absentee ballot, and turn the application in person. Given them a few minutes to approve your application and give you an absentee ballot. Then you can go ahead and fill out your absentee ballot right there and turn it in.
Absentee Voting Tips:
- Witnesses: Registered voters don’t need a witness (thanks to the League of Women Voters lawsuit), but voters registering for the first time still need a witness. One of the advantages of filling out your absentee ballot at a Dakota County service center is the staff can serve as your witness. Be sure witnesses sign the envelope and fill in their address.
- Fill in every blank: When you apply for an absentee ballot, be sure to fill in all the blanks. This ensures your application is processed quickly. Details like your phone number and email address are helpful so election officials can contact you if there are any problems with your application.
- ID: You have the option of listing your driver’s license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number. But it’s a good idea to list both. You have to write that ID number on your absentee ballot envelope, and it has to match what’s on your application. It’s easy to forget which one you used, and if you use the wrong one and the numbers don’t match, your ballot could be rejected. A signature can also be used for verification, but if you apply online there is no signature. So put both ID numbers down if you can.
- Track it: You can track the status of your absentee ballot online to ensure it’s received and your vote is counted.
- Hours: Be sure to check the hours of any Dakota County service center before you go.
2. Early Voting
Early voting is a bit of a misnomer in Minnesota as it usually happens through absentee voting. What we’re calling ‘early voting’ is voting before election day and physically inserting your own ballot into the tabulation machine.
This type of early voting starts October 27 and can only happen at the Dakota County Administration Center in Hastings. You can not vote early at the West St. Paul city hall (you can drop off an absentee ballot at city hall, but you can’t actually put your ballot in the tabulation machine).
3. Election Day Voting
And of course you can vote in-person on Tuesday, November 3 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. As long as you’re in line by 8 p.m., you can still vote. The West St. Paul website has a handy map of polling locations or you can look up your polling place on the Secretary of State website.
Local election coverage only happens with your support.