Election notebook: Minnesota voters can track their absentee ballots online

ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans taking advantage of the state's new early voting can keep track of their ballots online. A voter can visit to see when a ballot was sent out, when it was received and whether it was accepted. If a voter cannot ...

ST. PAUL - Minnesotans taking advantage of the state’s new early voting can keep track of their ballots online.
A voter can visit to see when a ballot was sent out, when it was received and whether  it was accepted. If a voter cannot find evidence a ballot was mailed, the local election office should be contacted, the Secretary of State’s Office suggests.
This is the first year Minnesotans may cast a ballot early without offering an excuse such as they will be out of town on Election Day.
“Both parties are pushing hard on the early voting,” state Republican Chairman Keith Downey said.
The issue was front and center at a Tuesday Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party rally with a sign on first lady Michelle Obama’s podium in a Minneapolis school. Obama has been encouraging college students, especially, to vote early.
Downey said that even though early voting totals are higher than past absentee ballot numbers, it is impossible to tell if they are additional voters or just voters who otherwise would go to the polls Nov. 4.
By Tuesday, 135,000 Minnesotans had requested early ballots, the Secretary of State’s Office reported. Of those, nearly 55,500 had been returned and accepted by election officials. In the presidential election year of 2012, nearly 71,000 ballots had been accepted by about the same date, and 2010 had more than 23,000 accepted. Voters generally turn out in far larger numbers when the president is on the ballot.
Early ballots, still officially known as absentee ballots, must be returned to local election offices by Nov. 4.
Voters may request ballots via or by contacting local election offices.
They also may vote early in person at local offices, which in most counties is the auditor’s office. Election offices will be open the Saturday before the election, Nov. 1, and until 5 p.m. the day before the election.
People not registered to vote may cast early ballots if they register at the same time.
Franken leads by 15

A KSTP-SurveyUSA poll shows Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken leading Republican challenger Mike McFadden 53 percent to 38 percent.
The rest of the voters were either undecided or support another candidate.
Two weeks ago, Franken held an 18-point lead in the same poll.
The survey showed Franken had support from 90 percent of his fellow Democrats, while 84 percent of Republicans backed first-time candidate McFadden.
First secretary ad

Democratic state Rep. Steve Simon on Tuesday launched the first television commercial in the secretary of state’s race.
Simon, running against Republican Dan Severson for the job being vacated by Mark Ritchie, promotes his sponsorship of bills that became laws to allow Minnesotans to vote early and to register to vote online.
“When I wrote the ‘no excuses’ absentee voting law, I wanted to remove barriers to eligible voters like the disabled, the sick or just plain busy folks, so they could cast their vote from their own kitchen table,” Simon said. “I also wrote the online voter registration to ensure that all eligible voters, especially those serving overseas, would have their ballots counted.”

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