Felten: Absentee voting process has been smooth so far

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, October 14, 2020

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Voting in the Nov. 3 election is in full swing in Mower County.

Mower County Auditor/Treasurer Scott Felten said people have been making good use of absentee voting in this new normal of COVID-19.

“There’s been a huge increase in the number of people requesting absentee ballots and we’ve also had a steady flow of people coming in to absentee vote,” he said Thursday afternoon.

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The topic of absentee voting has been a contentious subject to say the least in recent weeks as Republicans and Democrats bicker over how safe voting absentee really is.

On the local level, however, Felten said the process has been pretty easy with only a few voters asking about the process.

“It’s been pretty smooth,” Felten said. “Occasionally voters will ask when we open the ballot.”

While people can turn in their ballots all the way up to Nov. 2, Felten and his team can’t open the ballots until 14 days before the election.

“Right now when people drop off their ballot, we check the envelope to show we received it,” Felten said. “We then hold those ballots and will begin counting them once we get within 14 days.”

People can vote absentee all the way up to Nov. 2 either through absentee or by stopping down to the elections office in Austin’s City Hall, where you can both apply for a ballot and vote while you’re there or take it home, fill it out and drop it off.

If you go by mail, though, be aware of a couple things. Ballots will be accepted through Nov. 10 so long as they are postmarked by Nov. 2. If they are postmarked after Nov. 2, then the ballot will not be counted.

This fact alone has many stressing to not wait until the last minute.

“We’re continuing to get applications and doing our best to get them turned around as soon as possible,” Felten said. “We’ve been told people should be allowing 4-6 days for the postal service to deliver. We ask people to be patient. It will get there.”

It’s important to know too that the 4-6 days is for both the delivery and return of the ballot. It’s why Felten suggests that if you vote absentee, do it before Oct. 20.

All of this together promises that Election 2020 will be one to remember.

“It’s going to be a unique election,” Felten said.

The Auditor/Treasurers Office has extended the times people can request a ballot or vote absentee at City Hall. People can stop down from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 24 and Oct. 31 and until 7 p.m. on Oct. 27 and Oct. 29.

Absentee vs. Mail-In

Absentee: People can vote absentee on a large scale because of COVID-19. Through absentee, people can cast their ballot by dropping it off at the election office at Austin City Hall (500 4th Ave NE, Austin, MN 55912).

Mail-In: Even though absentee ballots will only be accepted through Nov. 2, some may see people dropping off ballots the day of the election. These are not absentee ballots but mail-in ballots from mail ballot precincts. In these circumstances, people are automatically sent ballots, but have no designated voted precinct.

“The election’s office is considered their ballot place,” Felten said.