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Absentee voting for November election

By Scott Felten

Mower County Auditor/Treasurer

Now that the State Primary Election has passed, many voters are eager to get an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 General Election. 

Our office has been receiving many phone calls daily from people asking when they can get their ballot for the fall election. We are asking people to please exercise patience. The Democratic and Republican parties just recently held their nominating conventions. Now that those parties have officially chosen their candidate for president, vendors can begin the process of printing ballots.

Absentee voting in Minnesota cannot start until 46 days before Election Day, which makes Friday, Sept. 18, the first day that an absentee ballot can be obtained and voted. Absentee ballots will be mailed out very soon after this date to those voters who have requested one.

The first step to receiving an absentee ballot is to complete the Absentee Ballot Application form and return it to our Elections Office, if you have not already done so.  Once our office receives that form, the voter’s request will be entered into the state’s voter database. Then when the general election ballot is available we will begin preparing the ballot packets to be mailed out in the second half of September.

If you submitted an absentee ballot application before the August primary and requested an absentee ballot for both the primary and general elections at that time, it is not necessary to turn in another application now.

The Minnesota Absentee Ballot Application is currently available online at mnvotes.org, or from the Mower County Elections Office, or from the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s Election Information page on the Mower County website.  Other third party organizations are also sending out absentee ballot application forms.  However, if you have already submitted an absentee ballot application, it is not necessary to turn in another one.  These other forms are legitimate; however, some are similar to a large postcard.

If a voter does use the postcard style absentee ballot application, we suggest they fold it up and mail it in an envelope in order to protect their voter identification information.

Due to COVID-19, school buildings are not allowed to be used for polling places and many election judges are choosing not to work this year because of health concerns.  As a result, the City of Austin has consolidated its normal polling places into one in-person voting location on election day – the Austin Holiday Inn Conference Center located at 1701 Fourth Street NW in Austin.  This location and the layout of the voting area worked well during the primary election.

Because of these changes brought on by COVID-19, many voters are choosing to absentee vote.  Absentee voting can occur by returning your ballot in the mail or in-person to the Elections Office, whatever voters are most comfortable doing. Our office is also looking into the possibility of providing a ballot drop box that would be placed outside at Austin City Hall, 500 Fourth Avenue NE, Austin, to provide an additional option for people to return their completed ballot.

For voters who prefer to vote in-person, beginning Sept. 18, they can come to the Elections Office located on the second floor of Austin City Hall, complete an absentee ballot application, receive their absentee ballot, complete the ballot in a voting booth, and turn in their ballot, all at one time in the Elections Office.

The Mower County Elections Office, located this year in Austin City Hall  is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday for people to absentee vote.  The Elections Office will also be open additional hours to provide more opportunity for people who prefer to absentee vote in-person or who want to drop off their completed absentee ballot.  These additional days and times are:  10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27, and Thursday, Oct. 29, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, and until 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2.

Please note that absentee voting is not allowed on Election Day, Nov. 3; voters must vote at their designated polling location that day.

Voters can check on the status of their absentee or mail ballot to make sure it was received by going to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website page: https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/AbsenteeBallotStatus.aspx.  Just enter your name, date of birth, and ID number (either MN driver’s license number/State ID number, or last 4 digits of social security number).

Mail Ballot Voting Reminders

Registered voters who live in mail ballot precincts (townships/cities) will be receiving their general election ballot in the mail in late September. 

These voters can complete their ballot and mail it back to the Elections Office or drop it off at the Elections Office. 

Voters who live in mail ballot precincts are allowed to vote in-person at the Mower County Elections Office during the hours referenced above, plus on Election Day, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, if they prefer.  Completed mail ballots must be dropped off by 8 p.m. on Election Day at the Elections Office in Austin City Hall.  If mail ballot voters prefer to vote in-person, please bring the ballot you received in the mail with you to the Elections Office as this will shorten the time it takes you to complete the voting process.

Non-registered voters living in mail ballot precincts can vote by completing a voter registration application and then they will receive an absentee ballot.

Note that due to the COVID-19 situation, for 2020 only, state law allows completed general election absentee ballots and mail ballots that are postmarked on or before Tuesday, Nov. 3 (General Election Day), to be accepted as long as the ballots are received in the Mower County Elections Office by Tuesday, Nov. 10.

Whereas, there were only one or two offices to vote for on the August primary ballot, the November general election ballot will contain all the applicable judicial, federal (including President of the United States), state, county, city, soil and water, and school board offices, plus the Austin school district referendum question.

For elections related questions, please call the Mower County Elections Office at 507-437-9535, or email elections@co.mower.mn.us.