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Nobles County auditor-treasurer dispels myths about elections

If people do suspect election fraud or voting fraud, they should let the auditor-treasurer's office know, Jacobs said, so that it can be investigated.

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WORTHINGTON — Dead people do not vote in Nobles County, and elections there are secure — that's the message Joyce Jacobs, Nobles County auditor-treasurer, gave to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

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"One of the things that has really changed with the face of elections is the political climate and the concern around election integrity and security," Jacobs said.

In the past, her office has helped educate the public about how and where to vote.

"But I think now we're also responsible to help educate the public about some of the misinformation that is out there about elections," she added.

Jacobs informed the commissioners that about half the precincts in the county use mail-in ballots, and dispelled some of the myths about elections that have spread nationwide in recent years. Then Cathy Roos, the county's chief deputy auditor-treasurer, walked the board through the voting process and showed them some of the voting equipment people can use in Nobles County.

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"One of the myths we talked about is that dead people vote," Jacobs said.

In reality, the Minnesota Department of Vital Statistics notifies election officers of deaths, and Nobles County also monitors obituaries for out-of-state deaths. Sometimes names of deceased people are pulled off the voter registration rolls before the person's funeral. And 31 states work with the state of Minnesota to inform them about deaths too. Because South Dakota isn't one of them, a staff member watches the local funeral homes.

If a deceased person in Nobles County does receive a ballot, it's most likely a question of timing — perhaps they died after the mail ballot was sent out but before they voted.

However, even then, if someone else in a household tries to use that ballot to vote, the system is made to catch that as well using data about the voter, and then the case is turned over to the county attorney.

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Since an individual may vote only once in a given election, if someone attempted to vote twice, say once with a mail-in ballot and once in person, that person would be caught.

Ballots also cannot be photocopied, Jacobs said. They are made of a very specific type of paper with coding marks on it specific to a particular precinct, and if it's not perfect the voting machines will not accept the ballot, Jacobs said.

"There's also a myth out there that multiple ballots are mailed out," she added.

She recalls the instance of a voter who came into the county offices saying she'd gotten three ballots in the mail. As it turned out, she had — but they were for three different elections.

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Another person once verbally attacked Jacobs claiming that her uncle had received multiple ballots in the mail, and so the elections were clearly fraudulent. But she hadn't been opening the "ballots," and they turned out to be applications for requesting absentee ballots, not actual ballots. Those are often sent out in bulk with the county's return address on them by other groups hoping to increase voter turnout, which is legal, Jacobs explained.

"I had one on my kitchen table, and it made me furious when I came home one night... it looks like it came from our office," Jacobs said.

It didn't.

Another myth is that the election machines are connected to the internet, which would make them vulnerable to hacking. They aren't connected to the internet, Jacobs said, and even the laptop used to submit election results to the state on election night isn't used for anything else, ever.

If people do suspect election fraud or voting fraud, they should let the auditor-treasurer's office know, Jacobs said, so that it can be investigated.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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