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Mower clears up confusion regarding absentee ballots

Before sending in absentee ballots, be sure that’s what you’re wanting to do.

The Mower County Auditor’s Office had experienced an influx of confused voters coming to the government center regarding an application sent to them in the mail by the Center of Voter Information, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C., according to Treasurer/Auditor Steve Reinartz.

These applications came to some residents with pre-addressed envelopes with partially filled information. Inside also included a return envelope addressed to the Mower County Treasurer/Auditor’s Office. However, Reinartz stated that many of those who received these applications did not realize it was for an absentee ballot and would not be able to vote at the polling station on Nov. 6 if the county processed their application and issued them an absentee ballot.

“We’re afraid that if they send that application in, we’re required to give them an absentee ballot,”  he explained. “ They cannot vote in the polling place again on Election Day. They won’t be able to vote, and may create some confusion if they have never voted absentee before.”

Since the absentee voting period started a week ago on Sept. 21, Reinartz said that Mower County began receiving a couple dozen applications sent in. However, there were also dozens of phone calls and visits to the counter with people questioning what the application was regarding, and when explained, voters realizing they did not intend to vote absentee.

Reinartz stated that Mower County consulted with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office regarding the absentee ballot applications getting sent out, and that it was legal for the Center of Voter Information to send this to voters since the group was nonpartisan.

“ There’s nothing wrong with it,”  he said. “ We’ve had some people call and come to the counter, questioning what they were getting in the mail. To answer another question, if they send us the application, we are required to give them an absentee ballot because it’s a signed application. Even if they go to the polling place and not send in their ballot, they are in the state voter system on the roster identified as an absentee voter.”

However, if voters did not intend to vote absentee and still want to vote on Election Day at the actual polls, the county would still be able to “spoil” the ballot, but would cost additional time spent on hunting down the original ballot amid hundreds of other ballots.

If individuals aren’t ready to vote absentee, Reinartz said that they are able to hold onto their ballots and send them in by Election Day.

“They cannot request a ballot afterward,” he said. “We have to receive the ballot by Election Day. So, voters gotta make sure they mail in soon enough or it may not get here in time. We don’t receive the ballot on Election Day, we can’t count it. We hope there’s an understanding.”