Afraid that this November’s election will be spoiled by partisan shenanigans or bureaucratic ineptitude?
With the perspective of decades of election experience, we’re here to offer reassurance: Nothing we foresee in the administration of Minnesota’s election in the next six weeks will be anything we have not seen before or for which our state’s election officials are not prepared.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous 1933 inaugural message aptly applies to what may be the most consequential election since his first one: The only thing Minnesotans have to fear in the conduct of this election is fear itself.
Counting ballots after Election Day? It’s not unprecedented. We entered into a consent agreement with the U.S. Justice Department in 1984 to count absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day — for 10 days after the election. These additional ballots were counted and canvassed without incident.
Voting by mail? Many voters in northern and western Minnesota have been voting in all-mail state elections for over 30 years. Over a million Minnesotans have cast their absentee ballots by mail in the past six years after the state law requiring a reason to vote early was repealed.
Polling place security? The state law is clear — no one except an election official or a voter preparing to vote may stand within 100 feet of the building where the polling place is located. Election judges will ensure that voters are able to approach all of our polling places safely and are authorized to request the assistance of local law enforcement officials if needed.
Processing and counting absentee ballots? Our largest counties have been planning since 2016 to process and count at least 50% of the total ballots to be cast before Election Day in this year’s presidential election. With the assistance of the Legislature, they can now start this process at the close of business on Oct. 20. We expect more than 95% of the total votes cast, both before and on Election Day, to be reported unofficially to the public on election night.
Election challenges? Closely contested elections and legal challenges to the election process are not new to us. Minnesota is the only state in recent years to have conducted major statewide recounts in consecutive elections. The 2008 recount for U.S. senator was the most comprehensive statewide recount ever conducted in United States.
Delays in determining election results? None of the voting activities likely to occur before and on Election Day will prevent the official county canvasses of election results from taking place by Nov. 13 as provided by state law. And none of these activities will delay either the postelection audit of election results the following week or the official statewide canvass of the election scheduled to take place on Nov. 24.
Minnesota’s election laws and procedures are the national standard. They’ve been tested under fire. Our record of combining election security with election access is without peer. In so many ways, this year’s election is the culmination of the electoral system that we envisioned in the mid-1980s and implemented step-by-step in the years since. We’re seeing the future of Minnesota elections right now.
Minnesotans are fortunate to have experienced election administrators and election judges working on their behalf. They began planning for the upcoming presidential election well before the pandemic disrupted daily life for so many of us. They are diligently working evenings and weekends to ensure that everyone can vote safely and securely. You know many of these folks. They’re your neighbors, friends and co-workers. Many are veterans of the 2008 and 2010 state recounts. They’ve been there before. You can count on them.
Joan Anderson Growe was Minnesota secretary of state, 1975-1999. Joe Mansky was Minnesota state election director, 1988-1999.