What the absentee voting?! Minnesota Edition

August 28, 2012
by carlsnodgrass

We’ve been at this long enough that it takes truly mind-bendingly bizarro election laws to raise our eyebrows.  Sometimes we find such laws in unlikely places…like Minnesota.  Minnesota has consistently high voter turnout. And Minnesota’s rules for registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot (you need an excuse to vote absentee, but the list is broad and lax) are pretty low-key. 

But the rules for returning your voted absentee ballot?  Chaos.  You have four options for returning your ballot.  The official wording is:

Returning your absentee ballot
Once you have received your absentee ballot, follow the enclosed instructions carefully and return your ballot as soon as possible. It must be received by the local election official who sent it to you by Election Day, or it will not be counted. There are four ways you can return your absentee ballot:

  1. Mail back your ballot in the pre-paid envelope provided by your local election official.
  2. Up until 5 p.m. on the day before the election, you may deliver your ballot in person to your local election official.
  3. You may also have someone else return your completed ballot, sealed in its envelope, to your local election official until 3 p.m. on Election Day. Persons delivering ballots may not do so for more than three voters.
  4. If you are worried about your ballot not arriving on time using First Class mail, you may choose to pay for package delivery service to return your ballot. Ballots must be received by your local election official on 3 p.m. on Election Day.

Let’s discuss. 

Option 1 is probably the most common way to do it.  It’s probably the way you should do it if you can.  (It appears that “received by election day” applies to this option; if so, great!) 

But then MN gets weird.  They give you three other options that are increasingly absurd. 

Option 2 states that if you for some reason wish to personally hand-deliver your own ballot, you have to do that the day before the election.  Why?  I guess there is an important difference between your hand and the post office when it comes to delivering mail.

But then option 3 makes option 2 sound eminently reasonable by adding that if someone who is not you wants to deliver your ballot, instead of you, then that person has an extra day — they can hand it in on election day.  But only until 3pm.  Why?  Why does someone who is not you get more time to deliver your ballot than someone who is you?  And why the seemingly arbitrary cutoff of 3pm instead of, say, when the polls close?  Because Kafka says so.  That’s why.

Finally, option 4 takes option 3 and adds a mysterious, fee-for-service third party that will deliver your ballot for you.  This third party also only has until 3pm on election day, and you seemingly have no control over whether they make that deadline or not.  Totally.  Where do I sign up?!

So the question is: why?  And also, who?  Who came up with this stuff?  Also, option 4 makes it seem as though your ballot must be received by 3pm on election day, regardless of how it is delivered (except if you hand-deliver it, then you have to do it by 5pm the day before).  Sooooo…if you mail it, the post office has to deliver it by 3pm??  Really? 

You know what?  I’m going to ask MN right now.