Notice: Changes to Receiving Absentee Ballots
Rules related to absentee ballots have changed due to a decision from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issued Thursday, Nov. 29. In summary, the rule is: Absentee ballots must be received on election day, by 3 pm for in-person returns, and 8 pm for mailed-in returns. Absentee ballots received later than the listed deadlines must be identified, separated, segregated, and otherwise maintained and preserved, so that the ballots can be excluded from the final totals.
Also based on this ruling, the town board of canvass returns to the original meeting dates, which means a town board of canvass must meet between 3 and 7 days after the election (November 6-13).
In August 2020, a Minnesota State Court issued an order that extended the time in which absentee ballots could be received and counted. The State Court ordered that absentee ballots completed on or before Election Day, could be received and processed up to seven days after the election. See LaRose v. Simon, A20-1040 (Minn. Aug. 18, 2020). However, the State Court order was challenged in Federal court, which led the Federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the State Court order on the time-period to count absentee ballots Carson v. Simon, No. 20-3139 (8th Cir. Oct. 29, 2020. The Federal Court held that the State Court did not have authority to extend the time for counting absentee ballots because the Legislature provided a statute on the issue.
The segregated ballots will be held until further instructions are issued by the Secretary of State’s Office. The current guidance on handling of absentee ballots is found here: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/election-administration-campaigns/election-administration/absenteemail-ballot-instructions/ .
The Legislature had added one extra day to count ballots in, allowing for a total of two days after the election to count ballots. This was provided by the Legislature and Governor in Session Law, 2020 Laws 77, § 1, subdivision 2(3). The Federal Court left that law intact, so election judges have until November 5 to count ballots that were received on-time.
As of Friday, October 30, 2020, its is too late for absentee ballots placed in the mail to arrive on time and be counted. Voters who have placed an absentee ballot in the mail may track it here: https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/AbsenteeBallotStatus.aspx .
If a voter’s ballot is not received by election day, the voter may vote in-person absentee at an early voting location, or may vote in-person on election day at their local polling place, the county election office, or other location authorized to administer voting for that voter.