REGIONAL— While much of the focus of the Democratic presidential campaign remains on the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first votes of this presidential race have already been …
REGIONAL— While much of the focus of the Democratic presidential campaign remains on the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first votes of this presidential race have already been cast— right here in Minnesota.
Early voting in Minnesota’s new presidential primary opened on Jan. 17, and thousands of ballots were cast in the opening hours, weeks ahead of the March 3 presidential primary. It’s the first time that Minnesotans have the opportunity to vote in a presidential primary since 1992.
Residents of area cities can take advantage of early voting Monday through Friday at their city hall, during regular office hours right up until the March 3 primary election. Most rural residents will need to complete an absentee ballot application to vote early, which they can obtain online at mnvotes.org, which connects you with the correct page on the website of the Minnesota Secretary of State. Rural residents can also cast ballots in person at the county auditor’s office in Virginia or at the county courthouse in Duluth.
Unlike past elections in Minnesota, participants in this year’s presidential primary will need to declare their party preference. Instead of one ballot that contains all of the candidates, each party participating in the presidential primary will have their own ballot, so voters will have to indicate which party’s ballot they want to use, which has been a source of controversy with some voters. If a voter refuses to select a party, they will not be able to participate in the presidential primary.
A voter’s choice of party ballot will be recorded and is private data under state law, however a list of who voted in the presidential primary and the party ballot each voter selected will be provided to the chair of each major political party by the Secretary of State, as is required under state law. How a voter voted on their ballot will still remain a secret.
If you are an unregistered voter, you can preregister to vote in the election prior to Feb. 11 or you can register at your polling place on Election Day.
According to the Secretary of State, the March 3 primary will cost approximately $11.9 million to administer statewide. Costs associated with the election are reimbursed to counties and municipalities.
One final and important note – while the presidential primary replaces preferential polls that previously were conducted at precinct caucus meetings, those caucus meetings will still be held on Tuesday Feb. 25 to allow members of the political parties to weigh in on other races or to advance resolutions for the party platforms.
Regular balloting in Minnesota’s presidential primary is set for Tuesday, March 3. Hours of polling may vary but most polling places are typically open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.