If you've cast an absentee ballot and wondered whether your ballot was rejected, you'll have to wonder no more.

A new law signed on Wednesday by Gov. Tim Pawlenty will require election officials to either send replacement ballots to voters whose ballots were rejected or notify the voters they should cast new ballots.

The law was the result of months of negotiations to improve Minnesota's absentee balloting problems, made clear by the 2008 U.S. Senate race. District judges, Supreme Court justices, high-priced attorneys and regular Minnesotans focused for months into 2009 on how -- and whether -- improperly rejected absentee ballots would be counted in that race. In the end, Democrat Al Franken won by 312 votes over Republican Norm Coleman.

The new law is designed to avoid such problems.

Unlike current law, election officials will no longer do handwriting analysis to confirm whether the signature on absentee ballot applications matches that on ballot envelopes. Instead, officials will match identifying numbers, such as a driver's license number, state identification number or the last four digits of a Social Security number, on the envelope and the application.

Previously, precinct judges in some areas decided whether an absentee ballot was valid. Now, all those decisions will be made by centralized, trained absentee-ballot boards.

The law is the second major overhaul to state election law. Early this month, Pawlenty signed a law to move the state's primary from September to August.

Separately, the Secretary of State has moved to make absentee ballot instructions easier to understand and to streamline absentee ballot design. Those rules are about two months away from completion.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger 651-292-0164