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Scott Felten: County lays out the next steps in county commissioner special election

The next step in filling the Mower County District 1 county commissioner vacancy will be the Special Primary Election on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.

The vacancy occurred when Commissioner Tim Gabrielson passed away on Nov. 10 and the county board approved holding a special election to fill the vacancy.  Seven candidates are running for the office so a special primary election is necessary to narrow the field down to two candidates who will then advance to the special general election on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

The candidates are Ric Berg, Tim Duren, Laura Helle, Arnie Johnson, Mark Lang, Michael Langstaff, and John Mueller.

Absentee voting is available now through Monday, Feb. 8 for the primary election at the Auditor-Treasurer’s office in the Mower County Government Center located at 201 First Street NE in Austin.  Please enter through the law enforcement center (LEC) entrance on the northwest side of the building.  Absentee voting took place in Austin City Hall only for the 2020 elections because special state legislation related to COVID-19 allowed a location change.

Any voter choosing to absentee vote will first have to complete an Absentee Ballot Application just like for the recent 2020 elections.  They can fill out a 2021 application online, or print out a paper application and fill that out and return it to the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s office.  There is a link on the auditor-treasurer’s page of the county website that takes people to the MN Secretary of State website where they can do this. Paper applications are also available at the auditor-treasurer’s office.

All 2021 election dates are listed on the application.  The voter can check the box to have an absentee ballot mailed to them for the Feb. 9 election, the Apr. 13 election, or both.

Voters who request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them should wait for the ballot to be delivered to them, and not come in to absentee vote in-person before they receive their requested absentee ballot in the mail.  Once a voter receives that absentee ballot in the mail, they can complete it and mail it back to the auditor-treasurer’s office in an envelope that will be included with the ballot, or they can drop off the completed ballot in-person, or they can come into our office with the ballot they received to vote “in-person.”

People who want to absentee vote in-person should not submit an absentee ballot application.  They should wait to fill out that form until they come into the auditor-treasurer’s office to absentee vote.  If our office receives an absentee ballot application in the mail or online, we will be mailing out the absentee ballot to that voter.  Absentee ballots will begin to be mailed out in early January.

Only voters living in District 1 will vote in the special elections.  District 1 includes the townships of Lansing, Red Rock, Udolpho, and Waltham; and also includes the cities of Brownsdale, Mapleview, Waltham, and the 1st Ward, 1st Precinct of the City of Austin.

City of Austin voters in Ward 1 Precinct 1 will vote at Austin City Hall, not at the Holiday Inn. Voting at the Holiday Inn was only for 2020 elections because special state legislation related to COVID-19 allowed a location change.

City of Brownsdale voters and Red Rock Township voters will vote at the Brownsdale Fire Hall.  City of Waltham voters will vote at the Waltham Area Government Center.

Lansing Township voters will vote at the Lansing Township Hall as their township board has voted to return to in-person voting instead of mail balloting.

City of Mapleview, Udolpho Township, and Waltham Township voters will vote by mail, similar to past elections, meaning a ballot will be mailed to each registered voter in their precinct. Mail ballots will likely be sent out during the second week of January. Voters in mail ballot precincts can complete the ballot and mail it back to the auditor-treasurer’s office in an envelope that will be included with the ballot, or they can drop off the completed ballot in-person, or they can come into our office with the ballot they received to vote “in-person.”

Voting hours will be similar to a regular election on Election Day with polls being open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Only voters in mail ballot precincts can vote at the auditor-treasurer’s office on Election Day, Feb. 9, 2021.

Absentee ballots and mail ballots will once again require a witness to sign the signature envelope.  The witness requirement was waived only for 2020 elections due to COVID-19.

For questions or more information, please contact the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office at 507-437-9535, or email elections@co.mower.mn.us.