Absentee ballots jump, overall turnout down slightly

Published 10:24 am Thursday, November 10, 2016

While absentee voting increased sharply, overall voter turnout Tuesday decreased slightly from the 2012 and 2008 presidential elections in Mower County.

According to the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office, 17,726 Mower County voters cast ballots in the 2016 election. That’s about 88 percent of the county’s 20,044 registered voters. That’s down from the 2012 presidential election’s 18,675 — about 92 percent of the 20,356 registered voters — and from 2008’s 19,302 — about 88 percent of the 21,801 registered voters.

However, absentee voting increased sharply. In the first year of no excuse absentee voting, 2,713 people cast absentee ballots, which was up from 1,488 in 2012 and 1,922 in 2008.

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“We knew there’d be a higher turnout, but not this much,” said Amanda Kiefer, deputy of vital records and elections for the county.

That high absentee turnout was one factor that put a strain on the auditor-treasurer’s office, according to Kiefer.

Election results for Mower County were posted around 2 to 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, hours after other counties had already reported and after the traditional reporting time.

Kiefer said the lateness was due in part to the high absentee voter turnout. The county can begin tabulating absentee ballots in the week leading to the election; however, staff was unable to because they were busy helping in-person absentee voters.

Those ballots were then tabulated Tuesday as precincts were delivering ballots. Then staff had to manually enter some election results because because computers weren’t reading some of the cards.

While overall turnout numbers haven’t yet been released, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office has reported Minnesota is likely to have one of the top turnout rates in the nation.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.