WORTHINGTON — With early voting set to begin a week from Friday, Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer Joyce Jacobs wants to clear up some of the confusion between mail ballots and absentee ballots.
Leading up to the August primary, Jacobs said her office received numerous requests for absentee ballots from registered voters living in mail ballot precincts. Those requests don’t need to be made.
“If you live in a mail ballot precinct and if you are registered to vote, then you will be mailed your ballot,” she said. “If you’re not registered to vote, then you need to register and request an absentee ballot.”
The difference between mail and absentee ballots is that mail ballots are distributed because the township board or the city council has made the decision that its residents will vote by mail rather than at a polling place. With absentee ballots, the voter makes the choice on whether to vote early or to cast their ballot at the polls.
Absentee ballots may be completed at the Nobles County Government Center in downtown Worthington beginning Sept. 18, or can be mailed out upon request. Once completed, the voter may either mail their ballot back to the auditor-treasurer’s office or place it in the secure drop box at the 10th Street entrance to the Government Center (Door 1).
In Nobles County, all but two townships have moved to mail-in ballot voting. The two townships that still vote at a polling place on Nov. 3 are Dewald (voting at the Rushmore school) and Summit Lake (voting at the Reading Community Center).
Most small cities with populations of less than 400 residents have also moved to mail-in ballot voting. Communities who will have an open polling place for the general election are Worthington, Adrian, Round Lake, Rushmore and Lismore.
People who receive either a mail ballot or absentee ballot are asked to read all of the instructions. All three envelopes must be used — the secrecy envelope, signature envelope and mailing envelope. Jacobs said a common mistake is not completing the signature envelope.
Last week, the ballots for the general election were being proofed and readied for printing. They will be available for absentee voting beginning Sept. 18, and will be mailed out to registered voters in mail ballot precincts after they have received a sufficient number of printed ballots.
“We try to send them out as early as we can, but it depends when they arrive from the printer,” Jacobs said.
With absentee ballots, the auditor-treasurer’s office will fill requests for ballots starting Sept. 18 and continuing through Oct. 20.
“If we get a request for an absentee ballot in the mail after that, we’ll send it out,” Jacobs said. “It’s on the voter to get the request in early enough so they have time to get it and send it back”
Absentee ballot requests received via mail will be sent out that same day.
Jacobs anticipates a high volume of absentee ballots to be cast in the Nov. 3 election. During the Aug. 11 primary, 46.69% of Nobles County voters cast an absentee ballot.
She noted that some polling places had few people stopping in to cast their ballot.
In Worthington’s Ward 2, Precinct 2, where 40 people voted, 32 of them opted to vote by absentee ballot, with just seven going to the polling place.
Meanwhile in the city of Lismore, 21 people voted at the polling place and just one person voted by absentee ballot.
In addition to completing a mail or absentee ballot from home, or going to their polling place on Nov. 3 if that is an option, voters may cast their ballot at the Nobles County Government Center beginning Sept. 18. Voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with additional hours on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and on Monday, Nov. 2, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. An appointment is not needed.
Individuals who are currently not registered to vote — or who have moved since they last voted — can register to vote online at mnvotes.org (here you can also check to make sure you are registered to vote) or stop by the Auditor-Treasurer’s office during business hours to register. Registration is required by Oct. 13 for new voters who will need either a mail ballot or wish to complete an absentee ballot.
“Our goal is to provide a safe and positive voting experience for everyone,” Jacobs said. “We want everyone who is eligible and wants to vote to be able to vote.
“My request to everyone is to be respectful of how others decide to cast their vote and if you are voting from home, mail your ballot back as soon as possible and if you are voting at a polling site, be sure to thank your fellow citizens who are serving as election judges.”