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Ready, set, vote!

Duluth City Clerk Jeff Cox is preparing for Election Day by working with the election judges to have the best possible layout/traffic flow plan at each polling site.

Duluth City Clerk Jeff Cox is preparing for Election Day by working with the election judges to have the best possible layout/traffic flow plan at each polling site.

He says voters should be prepared too -- to stand in line.

"There will be lines all day," said Cox in an e-mail interview with the Budgeteer. "Heavier times are first thing at 7 a.m. and after 4 p.m."

Across the country, experts are predicting record turnout. Cox is expecting at least 75 percent voter participation -- the turnout in the 2004 general election -- and he won't be surprised if it's higher than that.

Voter registration jumped significantly in St. Louis County the past two months. In September, the total of new and updated voter registrations was 5,749 (versus 761 in August). In the first two weeks of October -- preregistration cut off after Oct. 14 -- there were 6,635 registrations in St. Louis County.

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Voters may also register to vote on Election Day provided they bring the correct forms to prove identification and current address. It's not a bad idea for voters who have previously registered to bring a driver's license with the current address or other acceptable form of identification. (See "What You Need to Register" for more.)

A number of voters are avoiding the lines and voting early. As of Wednesday morning, Cox said, 2,963 people had voted absentee. That number will certainly be higher by Tuesday, as in-person absentee balloting goes through 5 p.m. Monday. The absentee ballots are counted at the polling sites on election day, Cox said.

In Minnesota, according to the Secretary of State Web site, citizens are allowed to vote absentee for the following reasons:

  • Absent from your precinct;
  • Illness or disability;
  • Serving as an election judge in another precinct;
  • Religious discipline or religious holiday or observance;
  • Eligible emergency declared by the governor or quarantine declared by the federal or state government.

Lines aside, for those worried about allegations that some electronic voting machines are flipping votes and/or lack a paper trail, things are looking better across the country. For the first time this year, a majority of Americans will be voting on paper ballots that will be counted by optical scan machines.
Duluth has used optical scanner voting machines since 1989, Cox said. With this machine, a voter fills out a paper ballot by coloring in ovals next to his or her selected candidate.

But even paper has problems. Sometimes voters don't fill out the ballots correctly and they're rejected by the optical scan machine. In that case, however, voters can take the ballot to a poll worker and fill out a new one.

The advantages of the optical scanner are that the act of filling the ballot out with a pen makes it inherently voter verified. And, because they are paper ballots, they can be easily recounted by hand.

Cox had two more suggestions for area voters:

  • Study the ballot options prior to coming to the polls. The judges are not allowed to explain issues.
  • "Voter patience and cooperation is sincerely appreciated," he wrote.

Employers and voters are reminded that, by law, employees must be granted time off to vote on the morning of state elections without a reduction in their pay. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
The polls in Minnesota will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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