MOORHEAD, Minn. — The pandemic isn't going away anytime soon. It'll still be an issue in August and November, when Minnesotans will be asked to vote in the primary and general elections. If other states that have "re-opened" are any indication, there might be a spike in cases. This is not a normal election year.

Many might feel uncomfortable going to the polls to vote, given that the coronavirus isn't going to just fade away like magic, as President Trump foolishly suggested.

Pro tip: Absentee ballots, allowing you to vote from home by mail, are the way to go.

Lacking universal mail-in voting, which should become the standard in future elections regardless of whether there is a public health emergency or not, absentee voting can serve as the perfect substitute.

Take it from someone who knows, applying for an absentee ballot takes less than 5 minutes and could not be simpler. My wife and I applied online. Our 19-year-old daughter applied through the mail. We expect to get our ballots in plenty of time for the Aug. 11 primary and the Nov. 3 general election. Once we receive them, we can mail them back to the state or drop them off at the county courthouse.

It's just common sense to get absentee ballots. Here's how:

  • Go to the web site www.mnvotes.org.
  • Click on the "online absentee ballot application" link.
  • Fill out the two-step application form. You'll have to provide the basics like your name, email address, home county, Zip code and home address. You'll also be asked for one of the following: a Minnesota-issued driver's license number, Minnesota ID card number or the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number.
  • Click "submit."

That's it. Easier than ordering something from Amazon.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said voting absentee is about more than simplicity. The goal is to reduce the number of in-person voters during the pandemic to make Election Day safer.

"It makes it safer for our 30,000 poll workers. We expect to have 3 million voters in the general election. We'll have about 3,000 polling places. That means our polling places will average 1,000 voters each. Because of the pandemic, we have to get that number down," Simon said.

Minnesotans are already signing up in gangbuster numbers. Simon said that as of Friday, June 26, almost 208,000 people had requested absentee ballots. On the same date in 2018, 7,939 had requested to vote absentee.

Here's another piece of advice: Don't wait until October to request a ballot. Do it now. Give yourself plenty of cushion to receive the ballot, fill it out and return it. There have been lawsuits haggling over when the ballots can be returned and still be counted, but don't tempt fate. Request a ballot now and return it early.

Simon's office expects a surge of applications close to the general election and wants to avoid a jam-up.

It's easy. It takes less than 5 minutes. It'll make for a safer Election Day in the midst of a public-health crisis.

All good reasons to apply for an absentee ballot. Now.