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Answers to All Your 2020 Elections Questions

Julia Hobart
Posted by Julia Hobart on 4:25 PM on September 18, 2020

Elections are an important way for individuals and communities to make their voices heard. That’s why Twin Cities Habitat is excited to engage our advocacy supporters in the 2020 Elections. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, our election engagement will be strictly non-partisan.

If you have any additional questions, please visit the Minnesota Secretary of State website at www.mnvotes.org. This is the most accurate and current source of information about the election.

Urgent: Change to Ballot Deadline!!

Your ballot must be received by Election Day or else it will be set aside, ruled a Federal Court on Thursday, October 29. What does this mean for you? Visit our Elections Guide, Part 1 to find out.  

We’ve put together this list of Frequently Asked Questions to help you with everything you need to Vote for Home. Read on, share, and email us if there’s anything else you want to know.

Use these links to jump to specific sections:

Learn the Basics

Q: English is not my first language. How can I learn more?

A: The Secretary of State has information translated in 11 languages, including Español (Spanish), Hmoob (Hmong), Soomaali (Somali), Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese), Pусский (Russian), 中文 (Chinese), ພາສາລາວ (Lao), Oromo (Oromo), ខ្មែរ (Khmer), and አማርኛ (Amharic).


Q: When is the election?

A: Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. You don’t need to vote in person on Election Day if you don’t want to. Read more about mail-in voting and other voting options below.


Q: Can I vote?

A: You can vote in Minnesota if the following things are true:

  • You are a United States citizen
  • You will be 18 years or older by Election Day (November 3).
  • You have been a resident of Minnesota for at least 20 days prior to Election Day
  • You are not currently serving a felony conviction sentence

See the Secretary of State’s eligibility requirements here for more information.


Q: Do I need to register to vote?

A: You need to register in order to vote.

  • Register Online
    In Minnesota, you can register online here.

  • Register In Person
    You can also register when you vote in person, either at an early voting location or at the polls on Election Day. To register in person, you need to bring with you proof of residence.

  • Check Your Registration Status
    If you aren’t sure if you are registered to vote, check your voter registration status here.

  • If You Recently Moved
    If you recently moved, you need to re-register at your new address. You can update your registration by completing a new registration form. If you recently moved to Minnesota from another state, note that you need to live in Minnesota for 20 days prior to Election Day (November 3) to be able to vote in the Minnesota election.


Q: I’m worried about COVID-19 risks. How can I vote safely?

A: Luckily, in Minnesota, there are plenty of easy and safe ways to vote – even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are several safe options. Visit www.mnvotes.org to learn about other ways to vote.

  1. Vote absentee (by mail)
    This is by the far the best way to reduce COVID-19 risk during the election. In Minnesota, we have no-excuse absentee voting. This means any voter can request an absentee ballot (here’s the online request form – it takes about five minutes). See below for more information on mail-in voting.

  2. Vote early in person
    Starting 46 days in advance of the election (today, September 18!), you can vote early in person at your county elections office. Every county in Minnesota has an elections office you can vote at. Some cities and municipalities have elections offices as well, including many locations in the Twin Cities metro area. Look these up here. A mask is required. If you don’t bring one with you, elections staff will provide one to you.

  3. Vote on Election Day
    Find your polling location here. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. As long as you are in line by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, you can vote. The Minnesota Secretary of State is using necessary precautions to keep voters safe. Face masks are required for voters (and will be provided if you forget to bring your own), although no one will be denied the right to vote for failing to wear a mask. Hand sanitizer will be available. Lines will be properly spaced out to help maintain social distancing. Some poll locations have been changed to ensure that all voting locations are safe. And finally, did you know you can bring your own pen? If you’re worried about catching COVID-19 from commonly touched surfaces, bring your own black pen to use in the ballot box. To learn more about the safety precautions implemented by the Secretary of State, click here.

  4. Have an agent pick up your ballot
    In special situations, you may qualify to have an “agent” pick up and return an absentee ballot for you. This option is available to people who are unable to go to the polling place due to incapacitating health reasons or a disability, and includes people who live in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or other special living arrangements. An agent must be someone you already know, who is at least 18, and who is not a candidate. Learn more here.


Get Ready to Vote

Q: Which offices are up for election?

A: In the general election, all United States voters will have these races on their ballot:

  • U.S. President
  • U.S. Senator*
  • U.S. Representative
  • State Senator
  • State Representative
  • Judicial Seats

*Only some Senators are up for election this November. In Minnesota, we are currently represented by Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Tina Smith. This year, only Senator Smith’s seat is up for election.

Depending on where you live, you may also have certain local elections on your ballot. These could include:

  • County Officials
  • City Officers
  • School Board Members
  • Township Officers

Depending on where you live, you may also vote on what is called a ballot referendum. This is a question or issue posed to voters that they will decide directly by either voting “yes” or “no” for the issue.

For example, in Minneapolis this year, voters will decide: Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to comply with Minnesota election law related to uniform dates for special municipal elections and to provide that a special election be held on a legal election day under Minnesota law that is more than 90 days from a vacancy in the office of Mayor or Council Member?

Kind of in-the-weeds, right? That’s another reason it’s good practice to look up your ballot in advance – it’ll give you time to do any necessary research.

Let the Advocacy team know if you have a question about a city question on your ballot.


Q: How do I know what will be on my ballot?

A: Click here to see your sample ballot, including a list of all the candidates and any ballot referendums or “city questions.” You'll simply enter in your address information and select “Click here for sample ballot” to see a PDF of your ballot as it will appear in hard copy. Here’s what mine looks like!


Q: How do I decide who to vote for?

A: Once you look up who will be on your ballot, there are a number of tools to help you decide who you want to vote for. First, you can look up candidate campaign websites to read about their policy platforms, values, and key priorities. You can read questionnaires, surveys, and other materials that candidates have completed to learn more about their positions on various issues.

Check out the Minnesota Housing Partnership’s 2020 Candidate Questionnaire and read state candidate responses to eight questions about housing – including about equity in homeownership. If your candidates haven’t responded yet, drop them a line via email, phone, or Twitter, and ask them to complete the questionnaire. This is a helpful tool for you to gauge which candidates will be champions for housing and to decide ultimately who you want to vote for.

There are many other ways to talk directly to candidates. While door-to-door canvassing may be limited due to COVID-19, candidates may reach out to you by phone or email. You may also be able to attend a virtual candidate town hall. At any of these occasions, use our Candidate Conversation Guide to engage candidates about affordable homeownership.


Q: Why should I make a voting plan?

A: Decide early how and when you want to vote. If you need to arrange childcare, get a ride to the polls, or plan any other details, it can be helpful to think it through ahead of time. People who have a solid voting plan are much more likely to follow through, either on Election Day or in advance.

Make sure you have a plan, and check in with those in your network, too. Do you have an elderly neighbor or someone nearby who may need help? Touch base with them and ask if they want help forming a voting plan.

Moreover, studies show that if people write down their intention to vote, they are much more likely to do so. That’s partly why we created our online Vote for Home Pledge. Sign it here (scroll to the bottom to find it), and help us get to 1,000 virtual signatures.


Vote by Mail

Q: How do I vote by mail?

A: This election, many people will be voting by mail for the first time. In order to make sure your vote is secure and successful, it’s important to be careful and follow all the instructions included with the mail-in ballot. Learn more at the Secretary of State website.

Here is an overview of the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Request your absentee (mail-in) ballot. You can request it online or download the application here and return the application by mail, fax, or in person. We suggest you do this as soon as possible! Don’t wait until the last minute.
  2. Receive your ballot envelope in the mail. The envelope will say something like “Official Absentee Balloting Material” on it and will be addressed to you from your local elections office.
  3. Open the envelope and read all instructions carefully.
  4. Complete your ballot.
  5. Follow all instructions carefully.
  6. Return your ballot. Your ballot will be sent to you with a pre-paid envelope, so you don’t need a stamp to mail it. You can return your ballot in any of these ways:
    1. Return ballot by USPS
    2. Return ballot by package delivery services (UPS, FedEx, etc.). Voters will be responsible for any additional charges with this option.
    3. Return your ballot in-person to your county elections office or to the city election office that sent you the ballot
  7. Track your ballot! See the next question.


Q: How do I know if my mail-in ballot was counted?

A: Use the Secretary of State’s handy ballot tracker to know if your vote has been received and counted. If you have any questions about the receipt of your ballot, or if you want to change your vote, call 1-877-600-VOTE (8683) or your local elections office.


Q: What is the deadline for sending my mail-in ballot?

A: Request and return your absentee (mail-in) ballot as soon as possible. As of October 29, your absentee ballot needs to be received by November 3 or else it will be set aside (and likely will not count). If you haven't returned your absentee ballot yet, do not mail it in. Instead, either drop it off in person to the elections office who mailed it to you no later than 3:00 p.m. on Election Day, or vote Early in Person, or vote on Election Day.


Q: I’ve read about changes to the USPS. Is mail-in voting a secure option?

A: Mail-in voting is secure and safe. According to the Secretary of State, “Numerous layers of security make absentee voting just as secure as in the polling place.” Each ballot has its own unique barcode, which the Secretary of State's office uses to track and count your vote, and every voter has a unique record in the voter registration system. To account for an expected surge of voting closer to Election Day, it is best to mail in your ballot as soon as possible. Use the ballot tracking feature to confirm when your ballot has been received and counted.

For a list of Frequently Asked Questions put together by the Secretary of State, click here.

Pledge to Vote for Home

Tags: Advocacy, 2020

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