Drive-thru ballot drop-off opens in downtown Minneapolis

    An election official comes to collect a ballot at a drive-thru location in downtown Minneapolis. Photo courtesy of Neil Chudgar.

    Voters who registered to vote-by-mail may now drop off their ballots in downtown Minneapolis without leaving their cars.

    Hennepin County opened a drive-thru drop off in front of their government center building at 625 S. 4th Ave. to accept ballots Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. leading up to the Nov. 3 election.

    An election official meets voters in their cars, asks a few questions and places the ballot in a secured drop box. Minnesotans may turn in ballots for up to three other people.

    “We wanted to avoid the mail, and we also make a ritual of voting together every year,” said Neil Chudgar, who cast his ballot with his husband at the drive-thru on Wednesday. “The drive-thru felt like a good way to keep everyone safe and lower strain on the post office. Plus it felt like a civic occasion, even if it wasn’t quite the thrill of voting on Election Day.”

    Demand for alternatives to voting inside a polling place has skyrocketed amid the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 1.4 million Minnesotans applying for absentee ballots for the general election so far. More than 300,000 absentee ballots have already been accepted.

    Voters may cast their ballots by mail. All absentee ballots in Minnesota come with pre-paid return envelopes, and voters are able to check that their ballots have been accepted online.

    Voters who don’t feel comfortable sending their ballots through the mail are able to fill them out and hand them to elections officials at their county’s election office or other drop off locations if available. Find yours here.

    While standalone drop boxes for ballots aren’t illegal in Minnesota, they are less common due to a state statute that requires election officials to keep a record of people who drop off ballots for others.

    The deadline to register to vote online is October 13. Register here.

    People may also register to vote and cast absentee ballots in person ahead of Election Day at early voting centers. Early voting is available at your county election office as well as other locations.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.