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Coronavirus In Minnesota: All-Mail Ballot System Under Consideration For 2020 Elections

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's top election official said Thursday that the 2020 elections in the state "must go on" in Minnesota, even if the country is still grappling with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a video statement, Secretary of State Steve Simon said his office is planning for a number of possibilities looking ahead toward November.

"Whatever option we use, we'll do this thoughtfully and carefully," he said. "No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote."

One option under consideration is an all-mail balloting system. In this scenario, each registered voter would be mailed a ballot, which would be filled out at home and returned by mail. Other states, such as Oregon, already do this.

"I'm looking to [those states], and their leaders, right now to figure out what components of that system to bring to Minnesota," Simon said.

Another option would be for officials to encourage absentee voting under Minnesota's current system. According to Simon, nearly a quarter of Minnesotans voted absentee in 2018.

Under this scenario, steps would be taken to lessen the threat that voters going to physical polling stations would contract the virus, Simon said. The steps include cutting down the number of polling places and removing them from vulnerable areas, such as senior care facilities.

"There are many potential costs, variables and tradeoffs to consider, and some of these changes would require months of planning at all levels of government," Simon said. "So, we need to act quickly."

Although officials in Washington are debating on how to help states ahead of the high-stakes elections in November, Simon says Minnesota is not going to wait for them.

"We need to lead, and we need to lead now," Simon said, "because Minnesotans deserve an active plan for elections now."

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