If you’re one of the nearly 400,000 Minnesotans who have not returned your absentee ballots yet, we have urgent news for you: DO NOT MAIL IT. 

A federal court panel here ruled Thursday that all mail-in ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day must be set aside. The ruling makes it unlikely that votes received after the election will count -- even though the state spent months reassuring people that absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within 7 days afterward would count. The ruling erases those assurances because the judges did not address what happens with those ballots. 

We’re not happy with the 11-th hour challenge that led to this ruling. But we must remember: Our vote is our fight. If it weren’t so powerful, people wouldn’t try to take it away. So, fight back: Vote early, vote on Election Day or drop off your absentee ballot in person at an elections office. 

(It’s important to note that this ruling doesn’t affect people who voted early, who already planned to vote in person, or who mailed their ballots eons ago. You can settle back and relax. Your work for democracy is done. The advice that follows is for the rest of us.) 

If you haven’t mailed your absentee ballot yet, please do not mail it. Drop your absentee ballot off at your local elections office, or choose instead to early vote in person, or vote on Election Day. Under state law, every county must be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and some offices are extending their hours.  

If you recently mailed your absentee ballot, you’ll want to track it. You can check the status to make sure it’s received at http://www.mnvotes.org/track. If it has not arrived by Election Day, go to your polling location, tell an election judge you want to “spoil” your absentee ballot, and vote in person. Do not vote if your absentee ballot was accepted. 

This ruling can undermine the bedrock principle of our democracy – our right to vote – only if we let it. Voters are the ones who get the final say. 

Whether we drop off our absentee ballots in person or show up to vote, we’re not just having our final say, we’re shouting it: Together, we can ensure that every vote is counted, and every vote counts.