Thursday, October 2, 2014

Research Q of the Week: The Difference Between Early & Absentee Voting (10/2)

Question: Is there a difference between early voting and absentee voting?

Answer: Yes! Now that no-excuse absentee voting is available, in-person absentee voting is often called early voting. While the terms are often used interchangeably, and voters may not be able to tell the difference, there is a difference.

Absentee voting
Absentee voting allows a voter to cast a ballot prior to Election Day in-person or through the mail. The voter seals the ballot, which is then opened in the few days allowed prior to the election. The results are totaled when the polls close on Election Day with the rest of the ballots cast in the precinct.

Early voting
Early voting is done in-person only. Voters complete their ballot and place the ballot in the tabulator, exactly the same way a voter would on Election Day. This gives voters a chance to correct any errors on their ballot such as an over-vote so that it is cast in the way they want. When voters leaves the polling place, they know their ballots were filled out correctly and that their votes will be counted.

Early voting also has advantages administratively. By having the voter deposit their ballot in the tabulator, the election administrators have the opportunity to correct errors. Election judges do not have to open and sort envelopes to be counted in the (very busy) days leading up to the election. No results of votes cast during early voting periods are totaled until Election Day.

Current Minnesota law allows for absentee voting in the 46 days prior to an election, but does not permit cities to allow for early voting. The League of Minnesota Cities supports the adoption of legislation establishing an early voting process. 

Written by Amber Eisenschenk, staff attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1227.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.  

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