Let’s dispense with ridiculous scare claims that mail-in voting is not secure or reliable and poses any risk whatsoever to an accurate count in the November election.

That’s especially true in North Dakota and Minnesota. Both states require those who want to vote by mail to submit ballot applications, an important safeguard to ensure that ballots go to actual voters.

North Dakota, in fact, could serve as a model for voting by mail. Thirty-two of North Dakota’s 53 counties have voted exclusively by mail for decades, with some beginning at least by the early 1990s.

The trend became more widespread in the early 2000s, when the cost of secure voting machines drove many of North Dakota’s smallest counties to embrace voting by mail. As a result, the state has had decades to refine the procedures to ensure fair and smooth voting by mail.

Now, as the nation continues to grapple with the greatest public health crisis in a century due to the coronavirus pandemic, voting by mail has never been so important. Many voters understandably want to avoid the risks of going to a crowded polling place in the November election.

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Fortunately, there are plenty of options. In Cass County, for example, voters can vote by mail, go to an early voting center or go to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 3. Election officials are arranging for polling centers with ample space for voters and poll workers to maintain safe distances.

But voting by mail is an obvious safe-voting option in the pandemic. In fact, the June primary in North Dakota was conducted exclusively by mail. North Dakotans embraced voting by mail in the June primary and mailed in their ballots in unprecedented numbers.

In North Dakota, every county now has a high-speed ballot counter — machines that were essential in handling the huge volume of ballots in the June primary. Election officials face an even greater challenge in the upcoming November election. Turnout in general elections is much greater than in primaries.

You can help ensure a smooth count — and ensure that your vote is counting — by voting early by mail. Don’t wait for the last minute. Postal officials have already warned that the high volume of mail during the election will result in slower deliveries.

In North Dakota, to be counted mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 2, the day before the election, and must be received by Nov. 9. So don’t wait to apply for a mail-in ballot and, when election day approaches, mail your ballot well ahead of the deadline.

Minnesota voters should have their ballots for the August primary postmarked no later than Aug. 11, the primary election date, to be counted.

Voting by mail is convenient for voters and healthy for democracy, which requires citizens to be highly engaged in electing their leaders and making their preferences known at the polls.

And in the midst of this pandemic, voting by mail is a vital option for those who want to avoid gatherings. So feel free to vote by mail — and vote early.