We Are Secure In Our Votes. That Makes MN #1!

As Minnesotans we understand that exercising our right to vote is fundamental to a healthy democracy. In the 2020 National election, MN was #1 in turnout with just under 80% of eligible voters casting their ballots.  Minnesota implements best practices for increasing voter turnout through Accessibility, Security, and Accuracy.  Let’s look at key features of Minnesota voting laws that help increase our citizens’ trust and participation while ensuring the integrity of our elections.


Minnesota historically has made it easy to register.  In 1974 we became the second state in the nation to allow for same day registration (Star Tribune, October 14, 2022). You can register to vote online with your mobile phone or computer at https://mnvotes.sos.mn.gov/VoterRegistration/index.  The LWV sponsors registration events where you can also register using a paper application. Paper applications can be printed from https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/register-to-vote/register-on-paper/ or call 311 to request one by mail.  And more recently,  Minnesota has passed legislation to make registration even easier with Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) at the time you apply for or renew your driver license or when you interact with other state agencies like MNCare, or Human Services.

Voter security is part of voter registration regardless of the method used.  To register on line, you need to provide your address along with your driver’s license number, State ID card number, or the last four digits of your social security number. This information is sent to election officials to create a new voter record or to update your existing registration.  All data is verified using state and federal databases.  If you do not have these identification numbers, you can still register to vote using the paper form—election officials will still verify your eligibility to vote.

Our large voter turnout is a result of how easy it is for citizens to vote. You have the option to vote by mail using an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots are only available to MN voters who complete and return an application to their local election official.  Your eligibility is confirmed using state and federal databases to verify information provided before ballots are mailed to the voter. Only 1 absentee ballot is ever mailed.  Additionally, as of June 1, 2024, you can apply for a permanent absentee ballot, eliminating the need to apply for each election cycle.

Election day is not just a Tuesday in November but extends over 46 days. This is true for city, primary and general elections.  For the 2024 general election you can vote early at your local election office from Friday, September 20 to Monday, November 4.  You do this by completing your absentee ballot at your local election office instead of mailing it.  After completing your ballot, you put it into a secure box. The process to count absentee ballots begins 18 days before the election.

Whether you submit your absentee ballot by mail or in person, you will need to provide

your name, address, driver’s license number, State ID card number or last 4 digits of your social security number.  This information is used to make sure your registration to vote is valid.  If you do not have these identification numbers, you can still apply for an absentee ballot using the paper form—election officials will still verify your voter registration.  No ballot is counted until it has been verified by the members of the Absentee Ballot Board.  Each ballot is given a unique barcode and is entered into the state’s voter registration system. This allows you to track the status of your absentee ballot at https://mnvotes.sos.mn.gov/abstatus/index.  The barcode allows officials to identify that you voted by absentee ballot ensuring that you will not be able to vote in another way.

If you need assistance to vote you can bring someone with you to help or get assistance from election judges.  You can access a machine that can mark a ballot for you if you are unable to do this on your own.  And if you cannot easily leave your vehicle you can have a ballot brought out to you.  Curbside voting is monitored by two election judges from different parties.  They bring you the ballot, return it to the polling place and put in the ballot counter.  If you make a mistake, no worries.  You have a right to a replacement ballot; just return the spoiled ballot to the election judge and this judge will give you a new ballot.  For more information on different ways to vote go to https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/ and click on “Other ways to vote” for the full list of voting options.


What happens to your ballot after you vote?  MN uses ballot counting machines to tabulate the votes. If you voted with an absentee ballot it is processed by the state’s Absentee Ballot Board.  They are kept in secured storage until 18 days before the election.  Then the ballots are opened and reviewed by a team of two board members from different parties.  Teams of two board members from different parties process these ballots using the same type of counting machines used to count in-person ballots on election day.

What happens to your paper ballot after it is counted? These ballots are placed in ballot transfer cases and sealed with two certification seals.  All of this is done by two election judges (one must be either the head election judge or the assistant head election judge) who sign forms throughout the process. The sealed ballot boxes are transferred to Hennepin County Elections and stored for 22 months.


How is the process of counting votes secure so you can be confident that your vote will be

counted? Paper ballots are the cornerstone of ballot security in Minnesota. They provide a record of everyone’s vote and facilitate any post-election audits to verify accuracy of ballot counting machines if needed.  Your paper ballot is tabulated using a ballot counting machine.  Research comparing the accuracy between hand counting votes and counting machines shows that using machines is more accurate and faster than hand counting (https://bipartisanpolicy.org/explainer/how-ballot-tabulators-improve-elections/).

You can be confident that these ballot counting machines are functioning accurately on election day.  Testing is done before and after elections to certify the accuracy of these machines. The machines purchased for use in Minnesota to count your vote have been tested for accuracy and certified by test labs approved by the U. S. Election Assistance Commission.  The machines also go through additional testing by the office of the Secretary of State before the election and again by local officials where the public are invited to watch the testing process.

After the election, counties randomly select precincts where election results are audited.  Hand counts of paper ballots are compared to machine counts. These audits are also open to the public.

Concluding Remarks

Many layers of protection exist to ensure voting integrity from the moment you register, to the way you vote, and to counting and certifying your vote.

Voting in Minnesota is secure due to a comprehensive system of safeguards and protocols designed to protect the integrity of the electoral process. From stringent registration requirements and accessible absentee balloting to transparent ballot counting procedures and post-election audits, Minnesota implements multiple layers of protection at every stage of the voting process. These measures ensure only eligible voters cast their ballots and every vote is accurately recorded and counted. In addition, the state’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity ensures that all citizens, regardless of their circumstances or abilities, can participate in the democratic process with confidence. Overall, Minnesota’s robust security measures and dedication to fairness make voting trusted and secure.

Next month the third article in our League of Women Voter Minneapolis 2024 Democracy Series, “AI and How it Can Impact Elections” will describe the role artificial intelligence may play in our elections.

Additional Resource

Check out this video to see a summary of key ideas from this article: