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COOK COUNTY CONNECTIONS: 2020 State Primary Election

Jul 31, 2020 08:35AM ● By Editor

By Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Election Administrator Cortnee Bernier from Cook County MN - July 31, 2020

On August 11, 2020, Minnesota holds its state primary election.  

Status QuoThe look of the ballot remains the same as in past years:  One side of the ballot, the partisan ballot, is for state and federal candidates listed under their political parties.  The other side of the ballot, the non-partisan ballot, is for candidates for local and judge offices. No political party names appear on this side.

The purpose of the primary election is to narrow the field of candidates who will appear on the general election ballot in November.  Local nonpartisan races only appear when three or more candidates have filed. The top two vote getters go on to the general election.  On the partisan ballot, the race is between candidates from the same party to find a single candidate for each office to represent the party at the general election. On the partisan side, voters must choose a single party and vote only the races for that party.  If a voter ‘crosses over’ to vote in more than one party’s races, the entire partisan ballot is rejected.  Votes cast on the nonpartisan ballot are still counted.

In this year’s primary there are two nonpartisan local races on the ballot, both for county commissioner offices.  Voters in precincts 2-4 (Croftville) and 2-5 (Grand Marais East) will choose between three candidates in the Commissioner District 2 race.  Voters in precincts 8 (Gunflint) and 8A (Maple Hill) will choose between four candidates in the Commissioner District 4 race.  Voters in all other precincts will only see partisan federal offices on their ballots.  

The Year of the Pandemic: The process for this year’s elections diverges greatly from past elections due to the corona virus pandemic.  

  • Grand Marais Polling Places: Health guidelines will be posted outside of entrances to polling places detailing the wearing of masks, use of sanitizer, and social distancing/entrance requirements. Inside, voters will find instructional signs, plexiglass barriers for judges, distance between voting booths and process stations, and markings on the floor for traffic flow.  Voters may need to wait outside the polling place during peak voting periods.  
  • Courthouse:  In addition to the Grand Marais East polling place in the Commissioner’s Room, the Auditor’s Office is the polling place for the eleven mail ballot precincts. Additionally, 6th District Court will be in session on August 11.  A tent will be set up outside for voters to drop off their ballots, for agent delivery of ballots (limit of 3) and for election information.  Inside, all visitors will go through metal detection.  From there, they will be directed to the Commissioner’s Room or Auditor’s Office for voting or to the 2nd floor for court.  Voters will see floor markings distanced six feet apart as they wait to enter the Commissioner’s Room or Auditor’s polling area. 
  • Community Center:  At the Grand Marais West Polling Place, in addition to the other health practices, voters will be routed through a conference room and hallway before they exit. This will limit contact with other voters.  
  • Election Results Delay: A court recently ruled that election judges must accept and count absentee ballots postmarked on election day.  (State law had previously limited absentee ballots to those received by 8 pm on election day.)  The result is that absentee ballots received on August 12 and 13 will be counted and election results will not be announced until those are tallied.    The case was filed because of the expected large use of absentee ballots this year and the additional processing steps required for absentee ballots in response to the pandemic.   
  • No Witness Requirement:  Another recent court ruling has simplified one aspect of voting by eliminating the need for a witness for registered voters.  Registered absentee and mail ballot voters do not need to have a witness sign the return envelope.  The court determined that, for 2020 elections, the need for safety by limiting contact weighed heavier than the need for a witness.  Non-registered voters must still have a witness to verify their proofs of residency.    
  • We Need Your Help:  Election officials and judges are doing what we can to limit everyone’s exposure to the virus, but we need the public’s help to be successful.  Key ways you can help include:
  • Follow all the health guidelines to the best of your ability
  • Vote absentee in if you live in Grand Marais to avoid having to go to the polls
  • Register and vote by mail before election day.  Unregistered voters in Mail Ballot precincts can register at and will be sent materials to register and vote by mail to avoid going to the Auditor’s Office on election day
  • Register and vote in person prior to election day.  Unregistered voters in Mail Ballot precincts can also visit the Auditor’s Office in the Courthouse prior to election day and register and vote. This will reduce long lines and wait times on election day

For more information on the election process, please contact us at 218-387-3640 or [email protected], or visit the Secretary of State at:

Please stay safe and vote.


County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service