ST PAUL, Minn. — Elections in Minnesota and across the U.S. will be historic in 2020 for many reasons, but especially due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Record numbers of people are expected to cast a ballot by mail this year as a result.
Minnesota election officials say there are a number of security measures in place to keep ballots safe from theft and prevent double voting.
When you apply online for an absentee ballot in Minnesota (billed as "Vote from Home" in 2020), you have to enter your driver's license or state ID number, or the last four digits of your social security number to release the ballot for mailing.
After filling out the ballot, when you mail it back in, you have to provide the exact same number you used to get it.
"So unless that ballot is returned with that same personal identifying information on it, meaning the mailbox thief knows which particular form of identifying information the intended voter used, that mailbox thief could send in 100 ballots or 1,000 ballots but they are never going to be counted. They will be spoiled, they will be discounted," said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, who's in charge of elections in the state.
If an absentee ballot were to be stolen, or mysteriously go missing, voters will know it.
"When you mail that ballot you don't just have to pop it in the mail and say a prayer and hope it gets there," Simon said. "You can know with absolute certainty whether and when it got there. We have a feature on the website, which is mnvotes.org, it's called Ballot Tracker, you can input your information and determine exactly when it arrives."
That means if your ballot goes missing, you can cancel it like a lost check and legally re-cast your vote.
RELATED: How to track your vote in MN
There's another layer of security on top of that: even if a thief were to have access to both your absentee ballot and your driver's license number, and were to cast a mail-in ballot under your name, each voter also has an individualized bar code for the election. When the real voter shows up at the polls on Election Day, the records will show they already voted; but the real voter can cancel the fraudulent ballot.
If voting twice is something you want to willingly try, just to test the system, Simon says don't.
"That is a felony. Don't do it. Don't knowingly vote twice," Simon said. "You can go to prison."
Out of roughly 3 million ballots cast in the primary and general elections in Minnesota in 2016, the Secretary of State's office said there were 11 unlawful voting convictions.
Get more information about voting in the 2020 election in our KARE 11 Voter's Toolkit:
If you have questions about the 2020 election, text your question to our KARE to Vote team at 763-797-7215.