Minnesota Secretary Of State - Absentee ballot process
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Absentee ballot process

Wondering what happens after you mail back your ballot? Read below to learn about the process of accepting and counting absentee ballots.

What happens after my absentee ballot is returned?
After your absentee ballot is received at the elections office, it is reviewed by an absentee ballot board. This board checks that the signature envelope was filled out correctly. Each envelope is reviewed by at least two members of the board.

How does the ballot board decide if a ballot is accepted?
They look at these things on the signature envelope:

  • Ensure the name and address match what was on the absentee application
  • Ensure the ID matches what was on the absentee application
  • Ensure the voter has signed the envelope
  • Ensure a witness has completed the witness portion

The board will also:

  • Ensure the voter is registered, or has included a properly completed voter registration application
  • Ensure the voter has not already voted in the election

What happens after my absentee ballot is accepted?
Accepted ballots are set aside in a secure area until 19 days before the election, separated by precinct. Starting 19 days before the election, the signature envelopes are opened and the ballot envelopes are removed and set aside so that no one knows whose ballot is whose. Once the ballot envelopes are separated, they are opened, reviewed by election judges, duplicated if necessary, and inserted in the ballot counter. Examples where judges would need to duplicate a ballot include if a ballot was damaged, unreadable by the tabulator, or on the incorrect ballot style for that precinct.

When are ballots counted?
Absentee ballots may be inserted into ballot counters as soon as 19 days before election day. However, no totals are produced until polling places close at 8 p.m. on election night.

What happens if my absentee ballot is rejected?
If your ballot is rejected more than five days before the election, you will be mailed a replacement ballot along with an explanation of why your ballot was rejected. If your ballot is rejected within five days of the election, election officials will attempt to contact you to let you know.

How do they make sure people can’t vote twice?
All ballots are tracked individually and linked to a voter in Minnesota’s voter registration database. Once a ballot is accepted, if that voter tries to vote again, the election official or election judge will see that the voter has an accepted ballot. Lists in the polling place are even updated throughout election day as ballots are accepted.

More details about the absentee ballot process can be found in the Absentee Voting Administration Guide. Some counties have also produced information about their specific processes—for example Anoka County made an Absentee Ballot Behind-the-Scenes video.