BEMIDJI -- Political ads on TV and yard signs across town may make 2020 seem like a normal election year.
However, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said he wants the voting to look a little different.
In an interview with the Pioneer, as part of his outreach effort to communicate with all of the state's 87 counties, Simon said he's encouraging more Minnesotans to vote from home this year. Simon said this applies to both the November general election and the upcoming August primary.
"What I'm telling everyone is, 'I think we have to look at these elections through a public health lens,'" Simon said. "We don't know what the world is going to look like in November or even August, but we have to be responsible and assume that coronavirus will be with us to some extent. It's going to impact these elections."
There are more than 3,000 polling places in the state and Simon said there's an expected 3 million voters headed to the polls this year, equating to nearly 1,000 people per location.
"There will be places with a lot lower than that, or a lot higher number of voters, but that's the average," Simon said. "So, the name of the game is getting that number down. So I'm encouraging Minnesotans to consider voting from home this year. It's easy and it's a law that's been on the books for many years, so it's not something new or radical."
Simon recommended residents visit mnvotes.org, where they can request a ballot, fill it out, and either bring it in to a county office or mail it.
Another action taken by Simon recently was to sign two stipulation agreements with organizations that sued the state over absentee ballot laws. In doing so, Simon allowed the state to accept absentee ballots, even if they don't have the required witness signature, and if they arrive within two days after the Aug. 11 primary.
The move was met by criticism from state Republicans, though, who argued the changes should have gone through the Legislature.
With the push for people voting by absentee ballots, Simon also told the Pioneer that results won't be instant on election night.
"Because we're expecting a huge wave of absentee voting, including with people who choose to vote from home, there is a real possibility that it will delay full results," Simon said. "It is certainly possible that we won't have a full picture until two days after the election."
To provide additional counting time, Simon cited a bipartisan bill in Minnesota allowing all jurisdictions 48 hours after the election to finish counting all of the absentee ballots.
To help voters who do show up to vote in person, Simon said he's also encouraging Minnesotans to consider being a poll worker.
"We need 30,000 people in elections, and we never have a problem getting them," Simon said. "But this year, it could be a challenge, because a good portion of our polling workers right now are seniors and we think some portion of them are going to choose not to do it this year, since they are at more of a risk. So, we have to replenish their ranks."
According to CNN, earlier this month Georgia counties struggled in reviewing an overwhelming number of ballots and inexperienced election workers led to state-wide problems.
"We don't want to have happen here what happened in Georgia last week," Simon said. "We're trying to over recruit this year, to make sure that if some people have to stay home, there are more to take their place. It requires just two hours of training and it's a paid job."