Just about everything is different in 2020, and the November election is no exception. One of the biggest differences is that there may not be a clear winner on election night.

It’s natural to feel on edge about not having all the answers on election night. But one of our most important rights as Americans is the right to vote, and election officials have a duty to ensure that every eligible vote is counted. We have to count and verify every ballot that is cast — from members of the military who send in their vote from overseas, to people with pre-existing conditions voting absentee because of the coronavirus, to people who vote on Election Day.

It is going to take longer to count the votes and verify a winner in the election — and that’s OK.

This year, more people are voting absentee than ever before. Absentee ballots take longer to count because of security measures to verify the accuracy of those ballots. Election judges go through every ballot by hand to ensure that each voters’ information is accurate. They make sure the Minnesota driver's license or ID number or Social Security number on the ballot matches exactly with the original absentee ballot application. The judges also check to make sure every envelope is signed and has the correct information. After the ballots are accepted or rejected, they're scanned into the state's system, with each voter getting their own barcode. This is when you can go to the online ballot tracker on the Minnesota Secretary of State's website, where it will tell you when your ballot has been received and counted. And just like many workplaces, election officials are being careful to stay socially distanced and are sometimes working with reduced staff or fewer resources.

Minnesota has one of the safest and most secure elections systems in the country, and is well-known for leading the nation in voter turnout. More than one million Minnesotans have already voted early. We should be proud of our high voter turnout and modern election system. This year, we also need to be patient so election officials can take the time to make sure every eligible vote is counted accurately.

When our election officials take the time to count and verify every ballot, that’s a sign that our democracy is working.

Mike Jugovich is the chair of the St. Louis County Board.

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