The Aug. 14 DFL and Republican primary elections are fast approaching, but you don’t have to wait until then to cast your ballot. Early primary voting kicked off on Friday, June 29. Here’s a quick guide to voting early in Minnesota’s primary elections.


What are primary elections?

Primaries are intra-party elections for certain races, in which voters select the candidates for their preferred major political party that appear on the ballot on Election Day, which this year falls on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

For example, there may be several Democrats or Republicans running in a given U.S. House district. Primary voters will determine which one of these candidates from each party will appear on the November ballot.

Minnesota has an “open” primary system, which means a voter can choose to cast a ballot in either the Democratic or Republican primary, regardless of their personal party registration. In non-presidential election years, there is just one ballot that contains both DFL and Republican contests, but voters can only vote for one party or the other.


Which races will be on the primary ballot?

Minnesota is expected to be a major battleground in the GOP’s effort to retain control of Congress this fall. All eight U.S. House seats are on the ballot, as are both of the state’s U.S. senators (Sen. Amy Klobuchar is up for re-election, while a special election is being held for the seat occupied by Sen. Tina Smith, who was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton following Sen. Al Franken’s resignation in January).

In addition, any of the 134 seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives with more than one candidate from either major party, and most statewide offices, including governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, will be on the primary ballot.

There may also be some nonpartisan county, municipal or school board races on the primary ballot, as well as some ballot questions. In a nonpartisan contest, the top vote-getters will advance to the general election.


Who is running?

We’ve compiled bios and campaign finance information for many of the major candidates for Minnesota governor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate candidates. You can see a full list of all current candidates for every federal or statewide office that will appear on the November ballot at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website.

Depending on where you live, there may be some additional local races or ballot questions. You can view your sample ballot at the Minnesota Secretary of State's website.


How can I vote early?

Depending on where you live and how soon you’d like to vote, you’ll have either one or two options: submit an absentee ballot or vote in person.

Of course, before you vote, you’ll need to register if you haven’t already. You can register to vote online or at your polling place if you plan to vote in person. To be eligible to vote in the primary, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age on Aug. 14, a resident of Minnesota for at least 20 days and, if you have been convicted of a felony, you must have completed the sentence.

If you need to register for the first time or update your registration at your polling place, you will need to bring proof of residence with you. If you don't have that, another voter registered in the same precinct may "vouch" for you and sign an oath confirming knowledge of your address. The deadline to pre-register in advance of the primary is Tuesday, July 24. After that, you’ll have to register at your polling place in order to vote in the primary.

More information about registering to vote can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.


How do I vote with an absentee ballot?

You can apply for an absentee ballot by email, mail or fax. You don’t need to be registered to vote in order to apply, but you do need to register before you submit your absentee ballot. If you are not registered at the address provided in your application, a voter registration form will be included with your ballot.

Applications are available in English, English-large print, Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese, Russian, Chinese, Lao, Oromo, Khmer, Amharic and S’gaw Karen.

Once you receive your ballot, you should read the instructions carefully. You will need a witness — either a registered Minnesota voter or a notary public — to sign your ballot. When your ballot is complete, you simply mail in the ballot, or in some circumstances an agent may pick up and deliver your ballot for you.

Absentee ballots will be mailed out beginning on June 29. Completed ballots must be received by Aug. 14, or they will not be counted.

You can watch this video for more information about absentee voting, or click here for additional details.


How do I find out where I vote in person?

You’ll need to check with your county’s elections office to find out if an early voting center will be available. Some counties may not offer one at all, or they may not open until closer to primary day.

In Minneapolis, the Early Vote Center will be located downtown at 217 3rd St. S., one block from City Hall. Beginning on June 29, it will be open every weekday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. It will also be open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4 and Saturday, Aug. 11. More info about early voting in Minneapolis here.

Things are a bit different in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul. There will be a handful of early voting centers around the county, but in-person early voting will not begin until Tuesday, Aug. 7. You can find information about early voting locations and hours of operation in Ramsey County here.

If you’d like to cast your primary ballot in person on Aug. 14., use the Minnesota Secretary of State’s handy Polling Place Finder to find out where to vote.


Do I need to show ID to cast a ballot?

If your voter registration is current and active, you do not need to show identification to vote. However, if you are registering to vote at your polling place, you need to bring proof of residence. Short of that, another voter registered in the same precinct may "vouch" for you and sign an oath confirming knowledge of your address.


Is voting information available in languages other than English?

Yes. The Minnesota Secretary of State’s website has translations of its election and voting information in 10 languages: Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese, Russian, Chinese, Lao, Oromo, Khmer and Amharic.