In-person voting starts in Minnesota, 3 other early states

  • Conrad Zbikowski places his ballot in the ballot box on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Minneapolis. With Election Day still more than six weeks off, the first votes of the midterm election were already being cast Friday in a smattering of states including Minnesota. (AP Photo/Nicole Neri)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — In-person voting for the midterm elections opened Friday in Minnesota, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming, kicking off a six-week sprint to Election Day in a landscape that has changed much since the pandemic drove a shift to mail balloting in the 2020 presidential contest. Twenty people voted in the first hour as Minneapolis opened its early voting center, taking advantage of generous rules that election officials credit with making Minnesota a perennial leader in voter turnout. First in when the doors opened was Conrad Zbikowski, a 29-year-old communications and digital consultant who said he has voted early since at least 2017.

“I like to vote early because you never know what might happen on Election Day,” said Zbikowski, displaying his civic pride with a T-shirt that bore the sailboat logo of the City of Lakes. “You might get sick, you might get COVID, you might get in a car crash, there’s many things that can happen. But what you do have control over is being able to vote early and getting that ballot in.”

The start of in-person voting comes as the nation continues to grapple with the fallout from nearly two years of false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump due to widespread fraud and manipulation of voting machines. Those conspiracy theories, promoted by a constellation of Trump allies in the campaign, on social media and at conferences held across the country, have taken a toll on public confidence in U.S. elections. They’ve also led to tightening of rules that govern mail ballots in several Republican-led states as well as an exodus of experienced election workers, who have faced an onslaught of harassment and threats since the 2020 election.

But nearly two years since that election, no evidence has emerged to suggest widespread fraud or manipulation while reviews in state after state have upheld the results showing President Joe Biden won. Saturday also is the deadline by which election officials must send ballots to their military and overseas voters. North Carolina started mailing out absentee ballots Sept. 9. Early in-person voting is offered in 46 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. States may use different ways to describe it, with some calling it in-person absentee voting or advanced voting.

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