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Down to the wire

WORTHINGTON -- While the deadline to pre-register to vote in Minnesota was Oct. 16, residents of the state still have an opportunity to cast a ballot in November's general election by registering at their polling place on election day.

In Nobles County, Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Balster said they typically expect a high number of unregistered voters to sign up at their precinct. During the last presidential election, in 2008, 1,359 Nobles County residents registered on election day. In the non-presidential election year of 2010, 621 people registered at their polling place.

Aside from the requirement that you must be age 18 or older to vote, those who have not yet registered must bring with them to their precinct a driver's license or photo I.D. that includes their current address. If the address is not correct on the I.D., they must also bring along their utility bill containing their address.

Several area counties are also anticipating a higher number of people registering to vote this November at their polling place, including Murray, Pipestone and Rock.

"I do anticipate a large number of new registrants on election day, simply because we usually always do and we have had a lot of inquiries on it," said Ashley Kurtz, auditor-treasurer in Rock County. "In 2008, we had 744 people register on election day and in 2010, we had 343 people register on election day."

Just as counties ramp up for a busy election day on Nov. 6, so too are they busy behind the scenes now, collecting absentee ballots and mail ballots from those small cities and townships that no longer operate a polling place.

Residents of Bloom Township and the city of Kinbrae are among those in Nobles County who have to fill out their ballot and mail it in. Ballots were mailed to residents in those areas on Oct. 1, and they are due back to the county auditor's office by election day.

For those who want to fill out an absentee ballot this year, forms are still available at your local auditor's office.

To vote by absentee ballot, the state requires the voter meet one of the following criteria: the voter will be absent from the precinct, have an illness or disability, cannot vote on election day due to religious discipline or observance of a religious holiday, is serving as an election judge in another precinct, or has an eligible emergency declared by the governor or quarantine declared by federal or state government.

Balster said Nobles County had distributed 619 absentee ballots as of last Tuesday. That compares with 349 absentee ballots distributed in 2010 and 769 in 2008.

In Murray County, Auditor-Treasurer Heidi Winter said her office has distributed 306 absentee ballots, which she said is "consistent" with the 2008 presidential election.

Jackson County Auditor-Treasurer Kevin Nordquist said his office has handed out 274 absentee ballots, which is more than was requested in 2008. Joyce Steinhoff, Pipestone County Auditor-Treasurer, has handed out one fewer absentee ballot, at 273 thus far, which she said is about the same as they distributed in 2008.

Both Rock and Cottonwood counties have seen fewer requests for absentee ballots this year. Jan Johnson, Auditor-Treasurer in Cottonwood County, said that office has distributed 188 ballots, down from a total of 552 distributed in 2008; while Kurtz said her office has issued 282 absentee ballots.

"For the 2008 presidential election, we issued a total of 470 ballots. We have seen absentee ballot traffic increase steadily day by day, so I'm assuming we'll end up right around the same amount as 2008, maybe a little less," Kurtz said.

Minnesota county auditor offices will be open extended hours this Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Nov. 3, until 5 p.m., for those who wish to complete an absentee ballot.

Following is a list of the number of registered voters, by county, as of last Friday, along with a comparison of registered voters in both 2008 and 2010. Also included are the number of people who actually voted in 2008 and 2010.

Cottonwood County: 6,309 registered voters as of Friday, down from 6,838 registered voters in 2008 and 6,497 voters in 2010. The number of individuals who cast a ballot in each of the last two elections was 6,084 in 2008 and 4,657 in 2010.

Jackson County: 6,033 registered voters as of Friday; 6,442 registered voters in 2008 and 6,232 registered voters in 2010. There were 5,694 voters who cast a ballot in the 2008 election, and 4,363 who voted in 2010.

Nobles County: 9,166 registered voters as of Friday; 10,258 registered voters in 2008 and 9,547 registered voters in 2010. The number of people who actually voted in 2008 was 8,886; and in 2010 it was 6,050.

Murray County: 5,035 registered voters as of Friday; 5,439 registered voters in 2008 and 5,150 registered voters in 2010. The number of people who cast a ballot in 2008 was 4,868; and in 2010 it was 3,818.

Rock County: 5,162 registered voters as of Friday; 5,721 registered voters in 2008 and 5,354 voters in 2010. In 2008, 5,011 people voted in Rock County, compared to 3,706 in 2010.

Pipestone County: 5,071 registered voters as of Friday; down from 5,544 registered voters in 2008 and 5,338 in 2010. The number of people who voted in Pipestone County in 2008 was 4,834, while in 2010 it was 3,374.

Kurtz speculated that part of the reason for the decline in the number of registered voters this year is due to the updating of the voter registration system.

"It now interacts with so many databases, so it is more up-to-date than prior years," she said. "For instance, it interacts with the Department of Health to remove deceased voters; and with the NCOA system to remove those that have moved from the state."

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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