ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Election day is fast approaching and election officials, like everyone else, are making adjustments to stay safe during this pandemic.
With Minnesota's primary election day on August 11th, direct balloting is set to begin Tuesday.
Direct balloting is another form of absentee voting, where you vote in person, ahead of election day, but not at your normal polling place.
"So you can vote absentee during the 46 days prior to every election," said Olmsted County Election Manager Katie Smith. "You can chose to do that by mail or in person. For most of that time period, after you vote, you'll fold up your ballot and you'll put it into an envelope. But during those seven days, that week right before the election, you have the option to go ahead and feed your ballot right into a tabulator."
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot more people are choosing to vote absentee this year.
"Normally we see an increase during this final week before the election anyway, but we were seeing a lot more of the mail in voting this year because of COVID-19," Smith said. "It's been a drastic increase. We've already sent out over 25,000 ballots for this August primary, which is unusually high."
Olmsted County will have a second location for direct balloting this week. It's located at the Government Center in downtown Rochester. The main location is at the election office on Campus Drive SE.
"It allows for more distancing during this time,' said Olmsted County Election Specialist Luke Turner. "We originally set it up for larger crowds of absentee, but this year we are not expecting too much. We just want to keep it there for extra distancing and the extra space."
Both locations are set up with the health and safety of voters and judges in mind.
"We're planning for a normal primary," Turner said. "We're planning for the maximum amount of voters and we have prepared for it whether it's guards, face masks, hand sanitizer. We've gone through a lot of measures to make it a safe voting experience for everyone."
Direct balloting is available Tuesday, Aug. 4, through Saturday, Aug. 8, and then again Monday, Aug. 10, at the two locations.
Hours for direct balloting during weekdays are are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you haven't voted by Election Day, Tuesday Aug. 11, you'll need to cast your ballot at your regular polling place.
If you plan to vote on Election Day, you can find your polling place by clicking here.