We are still a little more than two months away from the primary election Tuesday, Aug. 11, and five months from the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3, but many Minnesotans may want to consider the option of registering for absentee voting.
Absentee voting will start on Friday, June 26 – the start of a 46-day window in which to vote.
Given concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Wright County Elections Supervisor Corissa Aronson wants voters to know that absentee voting is an option some may wish to explore.
“Due to COVID-19, we want to convey to the residents that absentee voting is an option,” Aronson said. “I know that there’s a lot of controversy surrounding that. A lot of states, even Minnesota, might be looking at going exclusively to mail ballots. When you read the comments on Facebook or hear some of the things that get said about it, there is a lot of skepticism and lack of belief in the process. All the polling places will still be open on Election Day, but it’s an option for those who don’t feel comfortable going to a polling place – even if it’s not COVID-related – this is an option open to them.”
Absentee ballots can be mailed in or voters can cast their votes in person prior to Election Day at the Wright County Government Center in Buffalo or the seven city halls that handle absentee voting themselves – Albertville, Buffalo, Delano, Hanover, Monticello, Otsego and St. Michael.
Aronson said that, with the uncertainties surrounding the duration of the coronavirus and the potential for spikes that will continue to see the number of confirmed cases and deaths rise, the safest option for elderly voters and those with underlying health conditions would be the mail-in option.
“With COVID-19 still being a big concern, we encourage the mail option,” Aronson said. “It’s a way to cut down on those interactions between people. People have two options in absentee voting – voting prior to Election Day at a polling place or getting the ballot in the mail and sending it back that way.”
There has been a lot of debate on social media and even from some candidates that they don’t trust the mail option for ballots, citing the potential for theft of votes and fraud. Aronson said she has heard those claims, but hasn’t seen any tangible evidence that supports potential misuse of mail-in ballots.
“There has been a lot of skepticism with the mail ballots and how they’re handled and the possibility for voter fraud – which I don’t believe, but it’s what people claim,” Aronson said. “It’s really going to come down to the voters. Are they comfortable with requesting ballots in the mail? Are they going to come into our office or to those seven cities prior to the election? Or will they want to show up at the polling place on Election Day? At this point, I have no idea how it’s going to play out because a lot could change between now and August (for primary election), much less November (for the general election).”
For those interested in the absentee voting, the application process has two options. The first is to fill out an application online at the Minnesota Secretary of State website (www.mnvotes.org) to get queued to the statewide voter registration system and routed to Wright County. The second option is to fill out a paper application which can be found here: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/media/2444/english-regular-absentee-ballot-application.pdf and bring that to the Wright County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office.
Aronson said that her office isn’t requiring people to vote absentee, but wants to get the word out that it is available for those who wish to utilize it.
“Everyone’s comfort level is different with this,” Aronson said. “I don’t want people to feel like they’re being forced to absentee vote. I’m sure many people will prefer to vote at their local polling place, but COVID-19 has played into this. It comes down to whether or not the voter wants to go the polling place. We want to make people aware of their options and, if they want to vote, they can – whether in person or by absentee ballot.”
Starting June 26, voters will be able to cast ballots for the Aug. 11 primary – at the Wright County Government Center or in any of the seven cities that have absentee voting at their city halls. The objective is to allow everyone who wants to exercise their right to vote to have that option – however they choose to do so.
“Our goal is simple – we want to give people who want to vote alternatives that fits with what they want to do,” Aronson said. “If they want to vote at the polls on Election Day, we will be open to provide that option. If people want to vote absentee, we want them to know they have that option as well. It will be up to the individual voter to decide which option suits them best.”