The Earliest of Birds
Minnesotans can vote earlier in the 2020 general election than they could during two primaries in its electoral past
Minnesota frequently leads the nation in voter turnout (ranking first with 74.7 percent in 2016 and 64.2 percent in 2018), and the state seemingly does not want to lose that distinction in 2020.
Minnesota begins mailing out general election ballots on September 18th and the Secretary of State’s office extended the mail-in ballot deadline by one week. Ballots need to be received by a voter’s respective county within seven calendar days of Election Day, or November 10th.
By sending out ballots on September 18th, the state law thereby provides residents 46 days for early voting (although some Minnesotans will not receive mail-in ballots for up to two weeks).
Minnesota’s law bests multiple states which commence early voting 45 days before the election: Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.
If this early bird voting seems particularly early, consider this: the start of general election voting in Minnesota for the 2020 cycle is earlier on the calendar than multiple past primary elections held in the state.
Following the passage of the statewide primary law in 1901, Minnesota held primaries on the third Tuesday in September through the 1912 cycle.
In two of those cycles, the primary was held later than general election voting in 2020. In 1904 and 1910, the statewide primary was conducted on September 20th.
In 1906, the primary was held on September 18th, the same day as legal general election voting in 2020.
In 1914, Primary Day switched to the third Tuesday in June and would return to September two more times – but not as early in the month. Primaries were conducted on the second Tuesday of September from 1940-1942 and 1948-2008.
[A more in depth Smart Politics review of the scheduling of Minnesota primaries over the decades can be read here.]
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