Election 2020: What you need to know about Aug. 11 primary election

Check to see if you must vote by mail ballot; some polling location changes made because of COVID-19

Election 2020 art graphic logo

When asked to predict how the Tuesday, Aug. 11, primary election would go, Deborah Erickson, Crow Wing County administrative services director, perhaps summed up the 2020 election year best when she said it’s difficult to predict anything in this election cycle.

“Primaries are often hit or miss with turnout, usually depending on what local races are on the ballot,” Erickson said in an email. “We have put precautions and protocols in place for polling places, and voters and election judges should have confidence that their polling place is safe and ready for them.”

Pamela Smith, Cass County election administrator, said Cass County also believes polling place precincts will do their best to protect the health and safety of voters and election judges by providing a clean, secure, accessible and efficient polling place.

"The goal is ensuring that Minnesotans do not have to choose between their health and their right to vote," she said in an email. "I have faith in the election judges that will be performing their duties."

Smith said voters may expect longer wait times and may have to wait in their car or outside before being permitted inside the polling place to vote.


"As long as everyone can go into this election year with patience and understanding, Cass County is confident that it will go smoothly," she said.

Crow Wing County

Following is primary election information from Crow Wing County.

“Election officials at the state, county and local levels have been working together to provide a safe environment for both voters and election judges,” Erickson said in a new release. “With that in mind, voters will see some differences when they go to the polls.”

  • All polling places will have hand sanitizer stations at the entrance and exit of the polling place and voters are encouraged to sanitize when they come into the polling place as well as when they are finished voting.

  • In accordance with Executive Order 20-81, masks will be required to be worn in the polling place by both voters and election judges. Voters who arrive at the polling place without a mask will be offered one free of charge at the door, or offered an opportunity to do a curbside voting process if they wish.

  • Voters will also note additional protective protocols in the polling places, including plexiglass barriers at some of the stations and additional cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces being done throughout the day.

  • As voters enter the polling place, they will be provided a pen they will use during their time in the polling place. Voters will use that pen at each required station to sign the roster and mark their ballot, then drop their pen in the provided box after completing their voting. The pens will then be sanitized before being used again.

  • Voters are asked to adhere to social distancing guidelines while in the polling place. Election judges will provide additional guidance as needed.

“We’ve kept safety in mind when developing protocols and procedures this year, and voters who choose to vote at their polling place will have a safe environment to do so,” Erickson said. “We ask voters to have patience with the process and recognize it may take a little more time to vote this year as the sanitizing procedures will need to be done in between voters.”
Voters should double check their polling location before heading out to vote as some polling locations have changed for this year because of COVID-19 related concerns. To check your polling location, visit . Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voters who voted by absentee ballot or who live in a mail ballot precinct should mail their ballot in a timely manner to allow for post office processing and delivery. Erickson recommended allowing for at least four business days for delivery.

The Historic Courthouse, 326 Laurel St., Brainerd, also serves as the polling place for voters from mail ballot precincts who need to register and vote on Election Day. The Historic Courthouse polling hours will be from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. as well.

Eligible voters who need to register will need to provide proof of residence in their precinct to be eligible to register and vote. More information can be found on proof of residence at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website at .


For more information, visit the “Elections” page of the Crow Wing County website at or call the elections office at 218-824-1051.

Cass County

Smith said there are far fewer polling place locations than usual as several Cass County precincts opted for the mail ballot process over a polling place. Each precinct decides whether to be a mail ballot or polling place precinct. Questions regarding that decision can be directed to specific municipal town clerks.

Smith said the 2020 state primary is a state partisan primary and voters will notice less on the ballot because the presidential primaries were held in March. Voters will not be required to declare their political party at the Aug. 11 primary election as they were required in the March presidential primary.

Minnesota residents who vote in person must wear a face covering, Smith said. If a face covering is refused, any eligible voter will receive a ballot and vote but their name and address will be written on the incident log. Also, voters cannot wear campaign materials, which includes face coverings.

Smith said ID cards that expire between March 13 and Aug. 31 are valid until Oct. 31.

Who’s on the ballot?

Area primary election ballots could include races for two area state Senate seats and a U.S. House seat to narrow the Republican field for the November general election.

The Tuesday, Aug. 11, primary election ballot could include candidates in state Senate Districts 9 and 10, and in the 8th Congressional District, because more than one Republican filed for each of those seats.


If there is a primary in one party, the other parties’ candidate also appears on that ballot.

Depending on where voters live, their primary ballot could include:

State offices

Minnesota Senate

  • District 9: Incumbent Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and challenger Richard Dahl, a Republican from Lake Shore. The winner will be on the general election ballot.

A. John Peters, Browerville, the DFL candidate, will also be listed on the primary and general election ballots.
State Senate District 9 includes parts of Cass, Wadena, Todd and Morrison counties.

  • District 10: Incumbent Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, and challenger Shaun Christian Hansen, a Republican from Nisswa. The winner will be on the general election ballot.

Steve Samuelson, Brainerd, the DFL candidate, will also be listed on the primary and general election ballots.
State Senate District 10 includes Crow Wing and Aitkin counties.

Federal offices

  • U.S. House of Representatives-8th District: Incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Duluth, and challenger Harry Robb Welty, also a Republican from Duluth. The winner will move on to the general election.

Quinn Nystrom, Baxter, the Democratic candidate; and Judith Schwartzbacker, city of residence not listed, a Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate, will also be listed on the primary and general election ballots.
The 8th Congressional District includes the entire lakes area.

  • U.S. Senator: The Aug. 11 primary ballot will include the both Republican and Democratic races for the Minnesota U.S. Senate seat currently held by Tina Smith.

Crow Wing County

  • District 5: Incumbent Crow Wing County Commissioner Doug Houge, Ironton; Michael J. Starry, Ironton; and Tom Nixon, Deerwood, will appear on the primary ballot to narrow the field to two candidates for the general election.

District 5 includes the cities of Manhattan Beach, Fifty Lakes and Emily, as well as Little Pine, Fairfield and Ross Lake townships, along with cities and townships farther south.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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