Taopi, Sargeant switch to mail balloting: Other small communities could also make switch

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Before other voters punch their ballots in their traditional polling places for the Aug. 12 primary election and Nov. 4 general election, residents in two small Mower County towns will cast their ballots via the mail — and other communities could follow suit in coming elections.

Starting with the Aug. 12 primary, about 40 registered voters in Sergeant and about 49 in Taopi will not vote in their traditional voting places. Instead, those towns are switching to mail balloting, where residents all submit their ballots via the mail.

“They won’t be able to vote where they used to on Election Day,” Taopi City Clerk Jim Kiefer said.

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The city councils in both communities passed motions this spring to forego their traditional polling places in favor of mail balloting to avoid finding and paying election judges for a low number of voters in each community.

“It saves election judges, saves money, plus in my mind it’s even more convenient,” said Kiefer, who added he and his wife have already voted for the primary.

On traditional Election Days, the communities pay election judges to work from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for a small group of voters. Only about 20 people vote in the typical Sergeant primary, according to Sergeant City Clerk Laurie Wildeman.

“It’s just not cost-effective to have a whole group of judges there for that amount of people,” she said.

Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh spoke positively of the change, saying it should save money spent on balloting equipment, election judges and training.

“They’ll save a lot of election costs,” he said.

Groh sees more small towns or townships going this way in the future, as he noted Elkton and Mapleview could be good candidates for such a system.

“I think it’s going to be the future,” he said.

Groh said the change is similar to others the county’s seen. Groh has urged other communities — like the city of Lyle and Lyle Township — to combine polling places for similar cost savings.

“It kind of coincides with what we’re doing with the election process,” he said.

Absentee balloting is also becoming easier for all Minnesotans. Residents no longer need to provide an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot, thanks to a recent law. Groh said the change could be a precursor to early voting, which is permitted in states like Colorado.

For registered voters, the change should be relatively simple. For others, it will be more complicated. If Sergeant and Taopi residents didn’t receive a ballot in the mail, they’ll have to apply for a ballot at the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office.

Under state statute, mail balloting is allowed in any town outside the metropolitan area and any town with fewer than 400 registered voters. Residents can still vote in person on election day at the auditor-treasurer’s office.

Ballots will be subject to the same scrutiny as absentee ballots by the absentee ballot board and can be returned to the voter if a ballot is rejected.

Mail ballots must be initialed by a witness before the voter fills it out.

Did you know

Mail balloting is allowed under state statute 204B.45. Read more at www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=204B.45