Absentee Voting For Presidential Primary Starts Friday

Absentee Voting For Presidential Primary Starts Friday Click to Enlarge Photo: KNSI News

(KNSI) - No excuse absentee voting begins on Friday across Minnesota for the 2020 Presidential Nomination Primary on March 3rd.

The primary is open to all eligible voters.

Stearns County Auditor-Treasurer Randy Schreifels says there are a couple of ways to cast your ballot early.

"You can come into either the downtown county location or at the service center. They're both doing absentee balloting, and then you can also do it by mail."

Voting will take place at the downtown St. Cloud Stearns County Administrations Building from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and at the Stearns County Service Center from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Schreifels says their's one significant difference for voting in the primary compared to a general election.

"And there are going to be two ballots. The DFL ballot and the Republican ballot and to get a ballot, you have to choose a party."

Fifteen Democrats are seeking the nomination, and the President is the only name on the Republican ballot, although voters can write in a name.

It's not a winner-take-all system, so the state will likely award convention delegates to multiple candidates.

A new law passed by the Minnesota Legislature means presidential primary voters will have their names and contact data shared with the major parties in keeping with national party requirements.

"One thing I do want to make clear is the election workers when they ask this, they're just doing their job and it's not a county choice, and it's not a city or township choice or election judge choice, this is the law that was passed."

Who a voter cast their ballot for is private data; however, a list of who voted in the primary and the political party they voted for will be given to the chair of each major political party.

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin and GOP Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan say they intend to use those valuable lists for "party building," including get-out-the-vote drives, fundraising, and recruiting volunteers.

Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon said he sees it as a back door to a party registration system that risks discouraging some voters from participating. Simon said he plans to ask lawmakers this session to act quickly to restrict how parties can use the data.

Schreifels says they will take steps to protect voter's data as much as possible.

"Certainly in the polling place, there are going to be extra procedures to keep your party choice private. That privacy is going to be maintained the best we can. You may not notice them as a voter but were training the election judges on that."

All other primaries in Minnesota remain open primaries, including the statewide Aug. 11 primary.

Voters don't have to declare party affiliation for them, and they're free to vote in whatever party's primary interests them.

The 23 mail-in precincts in Stearns County will get their primary ballots mailed out on Jan. 24.

To request a mail-in ballot, contact Stearns County by emailing elections@co.stearns.mn.us and a ballot will be mailed to you.

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