Here's what you need to know as Minnesota becomes first to weigh in in presidential contests
ST. PAUL — Minnesota voters are set to be the first in the nation to begin casting ballots Friday, Jan. 17, for candidates in presidential nomination contests.
For the first time since 1992, voters will weigh in in the contest in partisan primaries. And while the primary election is set to take place on Super Tuesday, March 3, state law requires early voting to begin 46 days ahead of Election Day.
Ahead of the initiation of early voting, presidential hopefuls and their surrogates in the state planned to make a show of the event and encourage Minnesotans to get out the vote. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is hoping to clinch the Democratic nomination, plans to hold campaign events around the state during the day and will appear at an event at First Avenue along with supporter Gov. Tim Walz. And Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN05, is scheduled to stump for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Minneapolis.
Ahead of (early) Election Day, here's what you need to know.
Do I need an excuse to vote early?
No, Minnesotans can vote early in the primary contest without an excuse for why they might be unable to cast their votes on March 3.
Do I have to pick a party to vote?
Yes, voters casting ballots in the presidential primary will have to choose either Republican or Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to weigh in in one of the contests.
Who is on the ballot?
On the Republican ballot, President Donald Trump will be on the ballot along with the option for voters to write in a candidate. Minnesota GOP leaders will determine which candidates will be accepted and counted as write-in options.
Those voting in the DFL primary will see a longer ballot. Fifteen candidates will be listed, including three that have suspended their campaigns, and voters will also be able to select an "uncommitted" option. Candidates slated will be Michael Bennet, Joseph Biden, Michael R. Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John K. Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang. Booker, Castro and Williamson have dropped out of the race in recent weeks.
The state's two so-called "pot parties," the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party are not set to hold primary contests.
What will happen with my information if I decide to vote?
All four major parties will have access to the lists of voters that weigh-in in the Democratic and Republican primary contests. Party leaders have said they will use the information to campaign for candidates and don't plan to make public those lists. But advocates for voter privacy worry the lists will come into the public eye and could chill voters' desire to cast ballots moving forward.
Lawmakers who approved the move from caucuses to primaries in 2016 had little to say on the matter. But now, some have said the Legislature needs to find a way to keep the information private. Secretary of State Steve Simon on Thursday said he'd ask lawmakers to consider "guardrails" aimed at keeping voter information a secret.
What if I change my mind after voting early or the candidate I picked drops out?
Depending on when you change your mind, you can claw back your ballot and change your vote. Under Minnesota law, primary voters have the option to do a take-backsies up to seven days prior to Election Day if they voted early.
Will there still be caucusing?
Yes, on Feb. 25, partisan precinct caucus meetings will take place all over the state. Voters who attend will help shape party platforms, inform which candidates go on to receive the nomination and choose delegates to participate in future partisan nominating conventions.
Who is paying for this primary?
The taxpayers. According to the Secretary of State's office, the election will cost an estimated $11.9 million to administer.