Minnesota shatters record for absentee voting amid pandemic

Minnesota has smashed its record for absentee voting by nearly a quarter of a million votes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Friday, 911,385 absentee ballots had been returned and accepted, according to data from the Secretary of State's office. The previous record was 676,722 in the 2016 general election.

Voters had requested 1.66 million absentee ballots, meaning a 55 percent rate of return.

This summer, Minnesota had been seen as a battleground state in the presidential race, though Democrat Joe Biden has maintained a steady lead in polls, and President Donald Trump's campaign has cut more than $5 million in planned TV advertising time in recent weeks.

Secretary of State Steve Simon reassured voters that despite the pandemic and the record absentee voting, polling places will be open on Nov. 3.

State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer told Simon during a Senate Elections committee hearing Friday morning that voters were worried there would be a "lockdown." Kiffmeyer previously held the 's secretary of state job.

"Another concern that I hear, people being afraid there will be some sort of lockdown and the polls will all be closed on Election Day," said Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake. 

"I can’t imagine any circumstance where there would be a lockdown and a prohibition on polling places," Simon responded. "I just can’t imagine one. It’s nothing I’ve talked about, nothing I would recommend."

Simon said the state will have its usual number of 3,000 polling places open on Nov. 3. Some locations have changed because of the pandemic -- especially in senior centers and other facilities with elderly people -- and voters can check their polling place here.

Masks, hand sanitizer and other protective equipment has been ordered and shipped to cities and counties to have ready at polling places, Simon said.

"Any legal way of voting is equally legitimate," he said. "Polling place, in-person absentee, at-home absentee."