ST. PAUL — Minnesotans have less than three weeks to cast their ballots, whether by mail, early in-person or on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 3. With key races up and down the ballot and the coronavirus pandemic still gripping the state, here's how Minnesotans can cast their votes safely, and what they can expect from the voting process this year:

How can I vote? And when?

Minnesotans can vote via one of three ways: via paper absentee ballot, early in-person at their polling place, or in-person on Election Day.

Many state officials are encouraging Minnesotans to choose one of the first two options if possible, in hopes of preventing large crowds and long lines in polling places on Nov. 3. Voting is open now.

How do I vote via absentee ballot?

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First, Minnesotans must apply for their absentee ballot through the Secretary of State's Office. Voters do not need an excuse in order to vote absentee, but still must apply in order to receive a mail-in ballot.

Minnesota does not have a deadline to apply for an absentee ballot, but the Secretary of State's Office advises voters to apply as soon as possible so as to give the state enough time to mail out the ballot and ensure its arrival before Election Day.

The deadline for Minnesotans to return their completed absentee ballots in the mail is Election Day, Nov. 3. So long as the envelope is postmarked by Nov. 3 and reaches a voter's local elections office by Nov. 10, it will be counted. The SOS Office is encouraging voters to mail their ballots back as soon as possible, though.

Minnesotans can also drop off their completed absentee ballots in-person to select locations. Call your local elections officials for more details.

Voters may not drop their ballots off at their polling places on Election Day.

Be sure to follow all directions on the absentee ballot in order to ensure it is properly counted.

More details on how to vote via paper absentee ballot can be found on the SOS Office's website.

How do I know my absentee ballot was counted?

Minnesotans can check the status of their absentee ballot on the SOS Office's website at mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/AbsenteeBallotStatus.aspx.

How do I vote in-person?

If a voter prefers to vote in-person, they still can. Early in-person voting began in Minnesota on Sept. 18. Minnesotans do not need an excuse in order to vote early in-person. The process to vote early in-person mirrors that to voting at the polls on Election Day — just earlier.

Minnesotans can also still vote on Nov. 3 in-person. Most polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

If a voter is in line by 8 p.m. to vote, they should stay in line and vote. The voter will vote.

Do I have to wear a mask at the polls?

Yes. Gov. Tim Walz's Executive Order 20-81 requires Minnesotans to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all public buildings. This includes polling places.

The SOS Office is encouraging mask-wearing, but says voters will not be denied the right to vote if they fail to wear a mask.

What is the deadline to register to vote?

Minnesota allows for same-day voter registration up until Election Day on Nov. 3.

What if someone tries to block or intimidate me from voting?

Voter intimidation and poll-watching is not legal in Minnesota.

If a Minnesotan believes that they have experienced or witnessed any form of election misconduct, including voter intimidation or discrimination, they can file a complaint with their county attorney's office. More details on how to do so can be found on the SOS Office's website, www.sos.state.mn.us.

What do you need to know?

We know that voters may be confused by the process this year. What questions do you have about voting in Minnesota? What concerns do you have? Share your questions with reporter Sarah Mearhoff by email at smearhoff@forumcomm.com. We will try to get those answered for you, and share the information in future stories.

Clarification, Oct. 19: Minnesotans can drop off their completed absentee ballots in-person to select locations. This story has been updated to reflect that those locations may vary by county.