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Knowing the difference absentee and mail ballots

This is the second part of a commentary explaining the election process.

By Scott Felten

Mower County Auditor/Treasurer

Before a person can Absentee vote, they must complete the “Absentee Ballot Application” form and return it to the Mower County Elections Office to get a ballot or to have a ballot mailed to them.  They can choose to mark the box that requests an absentee ballot for both the Aug. 11 and the Nov. 3 elections.  Minnesota is a “no excuse” state for absentee voting, meaning you do not have to provide a reason as to why you want an absentee ballot.

The application form is available on the MN Secretary to State website; a MN SOS link is also on the Auditor-Treasurer “Election Information” page of the Mower County website.  This form is also available at the Mower County Elections Office in Austin City Hall.

Many people have already received an Absentee Ballot Application form in the mail from the Center for Voter Information.  This non-profit company is not affiliated with the MN Secretary of State office or with any county’s election office.  However, the application form is legitimate and is the same one available from the state and county election offices. The mailing includes an envelope to return the application to Mower County.  Once we receive the completed application, we will process it and send out the ballot.  Absentee voting does not begin until June 26 so ballots will be sent out very soon after that date and up to 5 days before Election Day.  Once the voting period opens, you can track the status of your ballot at https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/AbsenteeBallotStatus.aspx.

Absentee voting for the primary begins Friday, Jun. 26 and runs through Monday, Aug. 10 at the Mower County Elections Office in Austin City Hall.  Hours for absentee voting will be from 8 am – 4:30 pm Monday – Friday during this time period, as well as until 5 pm on Monday, Aug. 10 and on Saturday, Aug. 8 from 10 am – 3 pm.  Note the office will be closed on Friday, Jul. 3 for the Independence Day holiday.  Also remember that in-person absentee voting is not allowed on Election Day, Aug. 11; you must vote at your regular polling place.

Mail Balloting

Some voters will automatically receive a ballot in the mail for the August primary election without having to submit an absentee ballot application.  These would be voters who live in townships and small cities where the township board or city council previously voted to utilize mail balloting instead of voting in a traditional polling place.

Ballots for the primary will be mailed out around July 1 only to registered voters in those mail ballot precincts.  The ballots are mailed out by a third party vendor.  Instructions for completing and returning the ballot to the Elections Office will be included.

Non-registered voters can register until July 10 and automatically receive a mail ballot.  After that date, a non-registered voter will need to cast an absentee ballot if they live in a mail ballot precinct.  Contact the Mower County Elections Office for more information if this situation applies to you.

Completed mail ballots should be returned to the Mower County Elections Office either by mail or in person.  Once you have returned your voted mail ballot, you can track your ballot at: https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/AbsenteeBallotStatus.aspx.

If you prefer to vote “in person” or deliver your completed ballot “in person”, you may do so from Jun. 26 – Aug. 11 at the Mower County Elections office which is located at Austin City Hall, 500 4th Ave. NE in Austin, instead of at the Mower County Government Center.  We encourage people to bring in the ballot they received in the mail and use that to vote.  Otherwise if you do not bring in the ballot you received in the mail, we will have to “spoil” that ballot and give you a new ballot.

People from mail ballot precincts can vote “in person” at the Mower County Elections Office (in Austin City Hall) on Primary Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 11, from 7 am – 8 pm.

Townships using mail balloting are: Austin, Clayton, Frankford, Grand Meadow, Lansing, Marshall, Nevada, Pleasant Valley, Sargeant, Udolpho, Waltham, and Windom.

Cities using mail balloting are: Elkton, Mapleview, Rose Creek, Sargeant, and Taopi.

If you have any elections related questions, please contact Mower County Elections at 507-437-9535 or elections@co.mower.mn.us.  Election information is also available from the Office of the MN Secretary of State at https://mnvotes.org or by calling 1-877-600-VOTE.