Mailing your ballot? Time is ticking, Hennepin County election officials caution

Hennepin County election officials are telling absentee voters to get their ballots in the mail by Tuesday or make plans to vote in-person, either early or on Nov. 2.

Minnesota's traditional absentee ballot requirements are back in place in 2021 after a year of relaxed rules. This year, absentee voters must have a witness sign their ballot envelope, and ballots must be received by Election Day to count.

In 2020, Secretary of State Steve Simon waived the witness requirement and allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to count under a consent decree with a liberal voter group. 

"All of those changes have now reverted back," Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms told reporters Monday. "All of the rules around absentee voting this year are what they’ve historically been, as if the changes that happened in 2020 did not occur." 

Some people are struggling to adjust. As of Monday, 188 people in Hennepin County had their ballots rejected for a missing witness signature. The signature issue is responsible for the majority of rejected ballots in the county, according to data provided by the county.

The number is 1 percent of the 18,500 absentee ballots returned so far, and some of those people later submitted a replacement ballot, Gelms said.

Minneapolis has already set a record for municipal elections with 13,833 absentee ballots cast, representing 75 percent of the ballots submitted in Hennepin County. Minneapolis has a competitive mayor's race, and city voters are weighing whether to replace the police department with a new public safety agency.