MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's early no-excuse absentee voting is off to a strong start, 46 days before Election Day.
Secretary of State Steve Simon said more than 100,000 absentee ballots had already been issued to voters by mail, or in person, as of noon on Friday, the first day ballots could be accepted under state law.
Early voting centers opened in cities and counties across the state allowing voters to cast absentee ballots in person, without the need to report a reason for not waiting until Nov. 8.
"And my overall prediction is that more and more people are going to take to this new option of no-excuses absentee voting," Secretary Simon told KARE.
The best place to start is the Secretary of State's web site, MNvotes.org -- where voters can register online, order mail-in absentee ballots, get a customized sample ballot, find polling places and locations of early voting centers.
Those ballots being cast across Minnesota by early voters are held in vaults and other secure locations with limited access, but they can't be processed -- opened and fed into a ballot counting machine -- until seven days before the election at the earliest.
"Those vote tallies aren’t released, and even the elections administrators don’t know what the tallies are, they just know that they can process them," Simon explained.
Because those votes can't be counted until Nov. 1 this year, that gives early voters an opportunity to change the minds, by asking that their ballot be invalidated so they can get a do-over. But that has to be done before Nov. 1.
"If someone votes on, say, Day Minus-45 and has a change of heart, they can go and fish out, claw back, take back that absentee ballot, and that is done occasionally," Simon said. "However, after that 7th day before the election you’re out of luck, you’re stuck with your choice."
Simon has been forced to debunk a myth that absentee ballots don't carry the full weight of a regular ballot cast on Election Day.
"In Minnesota the rule always has been and always will be that an absentee ballot is the very same as any other ballot."
For those who choose the traditional mail-in absentee voting option, it's essential those ballots arrive back at the city or county elections office on or before Election Day. Being postmarked by Nov. 8 won't do the trick.
"You actually can be issued an absentee ballot to the very end, but if you’re doing it by mail, it depends on your risk tolerance," Simon said. "If it gets too close to Election Day you probably want to drop it off in person."
The most common mistake absentee voters traditionally made was in the mail-in application form, the so-called "outer envelope" whether voters and their witnesses sign the envelope. Simon said that witnesses sometimes forget to sign, and if that's caught early enough, the voter can be notified and re-submit the application.
If the person's voting absentee in person any mistake in the application will be caught on the spot, which is another advantage.