Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Yesterday, September 18 marked the official start of voting in the 2020 General Election in Minnesota. “Election Day” as we’ve traditionally known it will be on November 3rd, but the COVID-19 pandemic and helpful expansions of early voting by mail and in-person mean that Minnesota’s results may not be fully known until up to a week later. As of now, mail-in ballots are being sent out and many local governments have opened early voting centers.
Minnesotans rightly pride ourselves on high voter turnout, but the stakes are especially high this year. Minnesotans’ ballots will feature the Presidential race, a U.S. Senate seat, U.S. Representatives, State Senate and House seats, a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice election, and numerous local races. Every vote will count. Four years ago, Minnesota’s Electoral College votes were decided by a margin of less than 2 percentage points. In 2018, a large number of State House seats were decided by even smaller margins – one was even decided by an 11-vote margin.
The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a non-partisan organization, and we don’t lend our support to candidates or political parties. But we believe that it is a fundamental right and responsibility for eligible Minnesotans to safely cast a ballot, and to think about environmental issues when they do. The health of the planet we live on, facing unprecedented, human-caused environmental catastrophes, is what’s at stake. And that’s not just a commentary on the Presidential race. Congress will be responsible for writing legislation that transitions our nation to clean energy and agriculture. The Minnesota Legislature will determine whether we can shift to a climate-healthy transportation system, pass a bonding bill to protect our water, and support a much-needed transition in agriculture. Local races will decide whether our communities will have environmental advocates protecting our communities from pollution.
If you’re a subscriber to the Environmental Insider, there’s a good chance that you know most of this already. You may already have a plan to vote, or a ballot on its way to you in the mail. If so, great! But here’s the next thing you need to do: call or text a few people you know and make sure that they will do the same.
Here’s how easy it is to vote in Minnesota, and what the critical facts are:
- To be eligible to vote in Minnesota, you must be a U.S. citizen, 18 or older, a resident of the state for at least 20 days, and finished with any felony sentence if applicable.
- You can register online, on paper, or in person. Registering online is the fastest method, and only requires a Minnesota ID number or your Social Security number. Remember that you must re-register if you have moved since the last time you voted, and you can check to make sure you have done so online.
- Voting by mail is safe and secure, it does not require an absentee excuse, and helps prevent you or others from being exposed to COVID-19. Some Minnesota municipalities hold elections exclusively by mail. However, it is not the fastest method of voting, and it is strongly recommended that you send your ballot as soon as possible after receiving it to account for any postal delays. You can check the status of your ballot online. A mailed-in ballot received within 7 days of election day will be counted as long as it is postmarked on or before election day.
- If you do vote by mail and make a mistake on your ballot or change your mind about a candidate, you can contact your local election office (usually your County office) and request a new ballot.
- You can vote early in person at your county election office. This helps ensure that your ballot will be counted in a timely manner, and doing so early helps avoid long lines and wait times that are conducive to COVID-19 spread. Some counties, including all seven in the Twin Cities Metro Area, have additional in-person early voting locations.
- The Minnesota Secretary of State’s website has resources for volunteering – you can help the election run more effectively by becoming an election judge or hosting a registration drive.
While you’re encouraging people close to you to vote, you may also want to help them understand just how critical these elections will be for our environment – our water is getting less safe, our soil is being used up, and our planet is getting hotter, and we don’t have any time to waste. You can find information on our website at www.mepartnership.org, including our Voter Resources page, or peruse the websites of our member groups.
If there was ever a moment where it is absolutely essential to turn out the vote – to persuade, to push, and to lovingly pester our neighbors – this is that moment. We ask you to carry that urgency into your daily conversations. Be kind, be open-minded, but be firm. It’s never been more clear than it is in 2020 that democracy is not a sport to be watched – it’s a project we need to protect together.