Minnesotans can now cast a ballot for the Aug. 11 primary.

Early absentee voting began on Friday, 46 days before the election. Under state law, any eligible Minnesotan can now elect to vote early by mail or in person.

Secretary of State Steve Simon is encouraging voters to consider mail-in ballots this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Interest appears high so far: More than 207,000 residents requested no-excuse absentee ballots as of Friday, up from roughly 8,000 at this time in 2018.

Do you have questions about voting absentee, especially given the current circumstances? Read on to learn what you need to know to cast your ballot early.

Q: What is on the primary ballot?

A: The primary will determine which federal, state and local candidates will appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. There might be multiple Republicans running for Congress in your area, or three DFL candidates for state Senate. The winner in each party's primary face off in November. For nonpartisan races, the top vote-getters advance. You can view your sample ballot on the secretary of state website.

Q: How do I request a mail-in ballot?

A: Visit the secretary of state website to have an early absentee ballot sent to your home.

Q: Can I vote early in person?

A: Yes. You can cast an absentee ballot at your county elections office through Aug. 10. Some cities offer additional voting locations. Minneapolis' Early Vote Center, for example, is at 980 E. Hennepin Av. Ramsey County voters can also head to the New Brighton Community Center or the Ramsey County Library in Roseville. Some offices may have limited hours due to COVID-19, so you may want to call ahead or check online before you go.

Q: Are there other coronavirus-related changes or restrictions?

A: The secretary of state is recommending that all voters wear masks to the polls for in-person voting, but election officials cannot turn voters away who aren't wearing a mask. Most counties are following CDC guidelines on in-person voting during the pandemic, and many polling locations will also have extra masks for voters who are not wearing one but want one while they are voting, according to the secretary of state's office.

Q: What if I'm not registered?

A: You have until July 21 to register ahead of the primary, but if you miss that deadline, you can provide proof of residence at an in-person voting location on Election Day.

Q: Do I need a witness if I vote by mail?

A: Due to COVID-19, Simon is waiving a witness signature requirement for registered voters during the 2020 primary election. Several groups filed lawsuits arguing it's an onerous and potentially unsafe requirement during a global pandemic. Voters who are not registered will still need a witness to indicate proof of residence.

Q: What if I make a mistake on my absentee ballot?

A: The state will send a new ballot if you didn't fill it out properly the first time, or you can request a new ballot if you accidentally marked the wrong candidate or change your mind.

Q: What's the deadline?

A: County election officials will count ballots that arrive within two days of the election, as long as they are postmarked on or before Aug. 11 (Election Day).

Q: Do I have to pick a political party? And is that information public?

A: Unlike in the presidential primary, you do not have to choose a political party in order to receive a ballot. But once you get your ballot, you can only vote for candidates from one political party. Your party preference in the August primary is not recorded or public in any way.

Q: If I vote early, how do I know if my ballot made it and was counted?

A: The secretary of state allows you to track the status of your ballot so you can confirm that it was received and counted.

Torey Van Oot • 651-925-5049 Briana Bierschbach 612-673-4689