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Minnesota election offices open for early voting through Monday

With Election Day less than a week away, voters have a few different options for casting their ballot. They can vote early at the county election office, complete and return an absentee ballot or plan to vote in person at their polling place on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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A man votes in the 2022 election Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, at the Kandiyohi County Office Building in Willmar after he obtained his absentee ballot from the Kandiyohi County Auditor's Office. Voting early is allowed under Minnesota's no-excuses absentee voting, which may be done in-person now through Monday at county election offices, including for several hours this Saturday.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR, Minn. — The days are ticking down to Election Day. While not a presidential election, the 2022 election in Minnesota does include the governor and other state offices along with state House and Senate races, county offices including commissioners, attorneys and sheriffs as well as a multitude of city mayors, councils and school boards.

For those who just can't wait to fill out their ballot, or won't be able to vote in person at their polling place on Nov. 8, there is another option available. Minnesota offers in-person absentee voting at county election offices, usually the county auditor's office, 46 days prior to Election Day. This year early in-person voting started Sept. 23 and will go through Nov. 7.

Cast your absentee ballot

Continuing through Monday, those who decide to go to their county election office to vote will be able to feed their completed absentee ballot into a tabulation machine themselves. Tuesday, Nov. 1, was the first day that in-person absentee voters did not have to fill out the ballot envelope or have a witness sign their absentee ballot at the election office.

"It is called direct balloting," said Kandiyohi County Auditor Mark Thompson.

Election offices around the state can be found at www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/find-county-election-office .

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ELECTION 2022:
From the column: "A commitment to uphold common-sense, statutory, and bipartisan election-integrity measures is important."

The process of direct balloting is a bit more in-depth than voting at a normal polling place. First, the voter must fill out the absentee ballot application. Since 2014, Minnesota has provided no-excuse absentee voting, meaning someone can decide to vote absentee for any, or no, reason. They just need to be eligible to vote.

A potential voter also needs to be registered. A voter can check their registration status on the Minnesota secretary of state website . If not registered, they can do so at the election office as part of the direct balloting process.

Once a voter's application has been accepted and they are registered, they will be handed their ballot. However, not every ballot is the same and staff need to check what precinct a voter is from and what ballot they require.

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Kandiyohi County deputy auditor Sherry Bratsch, right, provides instructions to a voter Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, at the Kandiyohi County Office Building. Early voting may be completed in-person at county election offices, and Tuesday was the first day that voters were able to feed their completed absentee ballot into a tabulation machine. The counting of the votes cast does not occur until Election Day.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Michelle Hanson, Kandiyohi County elections coordinator, urges voters who decide to cast their ballot early at the election office to have patience. There might be a line and staff members want to take their time to make sure no mistakes are made.

"There are things we just can't rush. That is when errors are made," Hanson said. "We want to make sure they are given the right ballots."

Voters could also have chosen to vote absentee by mail. Those absentee ballots must be at the county election office by 3 p.m. Election Day. There is no grace period this time around as there was two years ago. Those who haven't already returned their ballot by mail may be better served to drop it off at their election office, instead of hoping it arrives by mail in time.

Statewide, as of Oct. 27, there had been 548,474 absentee ballots requested and 282,277 absentee ballots returned and accepted.

At the poll

Voters, of course, can decide to cast their vote at their normal polling place on Election Day. The secretary of state's website includes a poll finder for those looking for their voting locations.

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Thompson said voting at the polls should be much like it was in 2018.

Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, and if you are in line at 8 p.m., you will be able to vote. Voters do not need to show an ID to vote, though they will need one if they are registering to vote.

Only certain people are allowed in a polling place, including those who are voting, those waiting to vote, election judges and staff from the secretary of state's office or county auditor's office. Minnesota statute also provides for news media access with certain limitations.

All others must remain at least 100 feet away from the building where a polling place is located, unless they are conducting exit polling. According to state law, exit polling is approaching voters in a predetermined pattern as they leave the polls and asking those voters to fill out an anonymous, written questionnaire.

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An "I Voted" sticker sits on a table at the Kandiyohi County Office Building on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Minnesota does not authorize poll watchers, though challengers are allowed. A challenger may only challenge another voter's eligibility and only if the challenger has personal knowledge of that voter's eligibility. Suspicion is not the basis for making a challenge.

"It can't be someone from the metro with no ties to here and just decides to challenge each and every voter," Hanson said.

Challengers may be appointed by each major party or by a nonpartisan candidate, according to information from the Minnesota House Research Library. Each entity may appoint one challenger per precinct, who may remain in the polling place for the day. Challengers are not permitted to handle any of the registration materials or files and may only speak to a voter about their eligibility in the presence of an election judge.

While Minnesota prides itself on well-run elections, if a voter has an issue or concern there is a complaint form they can fill out. There are Help America Vote Act forms at all polling places. There is also a form on the Secretary of State's website that can be downloaded and filled out.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2022MINNESOTA
Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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