How to cast your vote in the 2020 presidential election

Alexis Yi, print editor-in-chief

The 2020 presidential election on Nov. 3 is rapidly approaching. Amid recent concerns about how post-office delays may affect ballot collection, it’s important to ensure that your voice is heard. Educate yourself and those around you about the different voting methods in Minnesota and the dates associated with each approach by using this comprehensive guide. All the information provided pertains to voting in Minnesota only, and voting protocols for other states may differ significantly. 

Parts of the voting process outlined in this guide:

  • Determining your eligibility to vote
  • Registering to vote
  • Voting in-person (early or on Election Day)
  • Voting by mail/absentee ballot 
  • Find out more

Determining your eligibility to vote

In order to vote, you must be registered. In order to register, you need to meet the following requirements:

  1. Be a U.S. citizen.
  2. Be at least 18 years old by Election Day.
  3. Have lived in Minnesota for at least 20 days before the election. 
  4. Not be serving any part of a felony sentence (including probation, parole, or supervised release).
  5. Not be deemed unable or ineligible to vote by a court of law.

Registering to vote

You can register to vote at the polling place on Election Day. However, it is strongly encouraged to register early to reduce waiting times at the polls. Early registration is open through Oct. 13; after, the only way to register is at your polling place when you vote. You can check your registration status and whether or not you need to update your registration here. There are two ways to register early: online or by mail. 

You can register online at this link. For online registration, you will need to have:

  • An email address
  • A Minnesota driver’s license or a Minnesota ID card

You can also register by mail using a paper application which does not require the credentials above. Paper applications are offered in multiple languages and can be found here. Paper applications must be mailed or dropped off at your county election office or at the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State in St. Paul. You can find your county election office here. The address of the Hennepin County election office is:

Hennepin County Gov’t Center

300 South 6th St MC 012

Minneapolis, MN 55487-0012

Paper applications must be received by either the Minnesota Secretary of State or your county election office 21 days before Election Day.

You can also register in-person at the same time you vote, whether it be during the early voting period or on Election Day (Nov. 3). The locations for in-person registration and voting depend on the county, and more details can be found in the Voting in-person section of this guide. In order to register in-person, you must provide proof of residence; a Minnesota driver’s license, learner’s permit, or ID is sufficient for this requirement, but other forms of valid proof are listed here. Alternatively, you can have another registered voter vouch for you, provided they were not vouched for themselves. 


Voting in-person

You can vote in-person on Election Day, or you can vote in-person early before Election Day. You can register at the same time you vote, but it’s encouraged to register before; see the Registering to vote section for details. 

Voting in-person early is also known as in-person absentee voting. Locations and times for voting early are determined by your county election office; you can find the locations by county here or by contacting your county election office. All county election offices will be available for early in-person voting, and you can vote early on the following dates in all counties:

  • Sep. 18, Sep. 21-25, Sep. 28-30
  • Oct. 1-2, Oct. 5-9, Oct. 13-16, Oct. 19-23, Oct. 26-31
  • Nov. 2

Different counties may offer additional locations and times. In Edina, you can vote early at Edina City Hall. 

Besides location and time, voting in-person early is the same as voting in-person on Election Day. The polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m. (although this might change for very small municipalities). You can find your polling place here.


Voting by mail/absentee ballot

It is not possible to vote online in any of the states. If you cannot go to a polling place, the only other option is to vote with an absentee ballot, otherwise known as voting by mail. There is no special registration necessary to vote by mail.

Voting by mail has two steps: requesting an absentee ballot, and then submitting that absentee ballot. Everyone is allowed to vote by mail in Minnesota, and there are no excuses necessary. This year, due to the pandemic, very large jurisdictions are mailing ballots to voters automatically. However, you can apply for an absentee ballot on your own to ensure that you receive one. You can either apply for an absentee ballot online or fill out a paper application and send it in. You do not need to be registered to vote to apply for an absentee ballot. 

To request an absentee ballot online, go here; you will need:

  • An email address
  • A Minnesota driver’s license or a Minnesota ID card or the last 4 digits of your SSN

You can also request an absentee ballot with a paper application and send it through the mail, fax, or email to your county election office. This does not require the credentials above. You can find the paper applications here, along with additional information about voting by absentee ballot. 

All absentee ballot requests must be submitted before Election Day; no requests can be submitted on Election Day. You will receive your absentee ballot through the mail.

In prior years, it was necessary to have a witness sign your absentee ballot after you fill it out. Due to the pandemic, this is no longer required, except when the voter is not registered to vote—in that instance, the witness signature is necessary for proof of residence. 

You can submit your absentee ballot by mail or drop it off. If you submit it by mail, it must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3, and it must be received on or before Nov. 10. You can also drop off your absentee ballot at the election office you received it from before 3:00 p.m. on Election Day. You may not drop off your absentee ballot at your polling place on Election Day. 


Find out more

More information on voting and elections can be found at the Minnesota Secretary of State website. There you can find details on voting protocols for college students, members of the military, people with disabilities, and those with other special conditions. You can also find a ballot tracker. 

For information on voting in other states, check out this website by FiveThirtyEight.