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Our Opinion: With options available, no excuse to not vote

Even in the middle of a global pandemic, Mower County voters have the widest array of options to cast a ballot as they’ve ever had. As a result, excuses for not voting are particularly slim.

Those uncomfortable visiting a polling place in person can request an absentee ballot and have it mailed to them. After voters complete a ballot in the comfort of their home and sign the envelope in the appropriate places, the finished package can be mailed to the Mower County auditor-treasurer’s office. Alternatively, voters can drop their completed ballot off at Austin City Hall in person or with the help of a close family member like a brother, sister, spouse, in-law or guardian.

Currently, there are 21,600 registered voters in the county. According to Mower County Auditor/Treasurer Scott Felten, as of Oct. 19, there have been 6,700 absentee ballots sent out and 6,700 ballots have been turned in. Combining mail-in and absentee ballots, almost 10,800 ballots have been sent out with 5,800 ballots returned.

It’s amazing when you consider that 50 percent of voters in the county have received ballots early and 27 percent have returned them.

In the 2016 presidential election, the county received 2,700 absentee ballots and a combined mail-in, absentee total of 2,900.

Data from the State Board of Elections said that as of Oct. 16, 911,385 voters have already cast absentee or mail-in ballots across the state of Minnesota.

There is also the option of early in-person voting. All voters have at least one location where they can vote early in person with an absentee ballot. Early voting started Sept. 18, and in Mower County can be done at the Auditor-Treasurer’s office. All people need to do is stop down to City Hall.

This year, to ensure their vote is counted, some voters feel determined to cast their ballot in person, to feed their completed ballot into the counting machine. The local and state boards of elections are putting in place good measures to make sure that’s a safe experience on Election Day.

Of course, every election is important. From town halls to the halls of Congress, elected officials make decisions that affect our daily lives and the way our community looks. But this year’s election is particularly critical because of the wide slate of contested races — president, U.S. Senate and House, Minnesota’s House of Representatives and Senate, Mower County’s Board of Commissioners, Austin Mayor, Austin City Council and the Austin Public Schools Board — and the different visions expressed by the candidates in them.

With the plethora of options to vote, anyone who chooses not to cast a ballot in 2020 only has themselves to blame. Make a plan to vote today and, if you have questions about voting in 2020, call Mower County Auditor-Treasurer Scott Felten’s office at 1-507-437-9535.