Despite new law, absentee voting trails 2010 pace

State election officials have distributed nearly 19,000 absentee ballots for the Aug. 12 primary, and about half have been returned.

The latest figures from the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State show 9,208 absentee primary ballots of the 18,581 distributed have been returned so far. That compares to 6,014 returned at this in time in 2012 and 10,088 in 2010. There was a three-way DFL primary for governor in 2010. This year, Republicans have a four-way contest.

This year’s primary marks the first statewide voting under Minnesota’s new “no excuses” absentee balloting law. Voters are no longer required to declare an approved reason why they cannot be at their polling place on the day of the election.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said the new law, along with an online option for requesting absentee ballots, can help further voter engagement.

“It’s important for Minnesota to have engaged and informed voters to drive participation and increase turnout,” Ritchie said in a news release

Voters who’ve requested and received an absentee ballot must return it to their local election officials by primary Election Day.