Absentee voting strong in Mille Lacs County

Whether it is the many political races this year, the two state amendment proposals, or that a president is being chosen, the number of absentee votes is strong in the Princeton area as Tuesday’s general election nears.

The number of absentee ballots cast in Mille Lacs County as of Oct. 24 was the largest that Mille Lacs Auditor-Treasurer Phil Thompson recalls ever receiving in his 18 years in the job.

“It seems like it’s heavier than in past years,” he said. His office processed 650 absentee ballot applications this year and as of Oct. 24, had received about 400 filled-out absentee ballots back.

Isanti County Auditor-Treasurer Terry Treichel, in his job since 1990, said that this year’s absentee ballot number is “fairly heavy, steady,” and “comparable to four years ago.” It’s just as many if not more than in 2008, Treichel added.

“We’re busy,” is how Benton County Auditor-Treasurer Karri Thorsten described the number of absentee ballots cast there as of last Thursday morning. Approximately 500 of the absentee ballots had been mailed into her office by then. Thorsten said she couldn’t compare this to other years, since this is her first election as auditor-treasurer.

Sherburne County Auditor-Treasurer Diane Arnold reported last Friday that her office had received 2,060 absentee ballots already, more than for the same period leading up to the 2008 election. Arnold predicted that Sherburne’s absentee ballots this election will surpass the 3,554 turned in four years ago.

The voter turnout in Sherburne in 2008 was 79.7 percent of eligible voters and Arnold predicted that the voting will be high again, guessing it will be between 70 and 80 percent.

Mailed absentee ballots must be at the courthouse no later than Nov. 5. If they are carried in, they have to be in no later than Nov. 6, election day. Thompson recommends that absentee voters make sure there will still be enough time for the postal service to get their ballot to the courthouse by deadline.

The Minnesota absentee ballot application must first be filled out before an absentee voter can vote that way. The application form lists five legitimate reasons for voting absentee, rather than on election day, and they are:

• being absent from precinct

• illness or disability

• religious discipline or observance of religious holiday

• service as election judge in another precinct.

• eligible emergency declared by the governor or quarantine declared by state or federal government.

People in Minnesota can’t just decide they want to vote via the absentee ballot for other reasons, Thompson said. He noted that Minnesota doesn’t have what is called early voting  in which people can vote within their state’s prescribed time period prior to election day without any required reason.


Readying for the big day

“We’re scrambling to keep up,” said Thompson about he and his staff preparing for election day, Thompson adding that the absentee ballot part is a lot of work, along with testing the voting equipment.


Concern raised about ad

A Mille Lacs resident approached Auditor-Treasurer Thompson last week about the ad that was in the Oct. 22, 2012 Town & Country that was prepared and paid for by “parents, teachers, and community members for ABC Committee,” which has a Princeton address.

The ad shows a sample ballot containing the Princeton School Board positions up for election.

On the position where it instructs voters to vote for up to four and has the filed names of Jeremy Miller, Chad Young, Chuck Nagle and Howard Vaillancourt, the ovals for Miller, Young, and Vaillancourt are filled in. The oval for Nagle is not filled in and a line is run across Nagle’s name. Then down below the name of a write-in candidate is inserted with an oval for it filled in.

Thompson advises voters not to mark or place lines on a ballot. Doing that could result in a line hitting the oval next to it and the voting machine counting that as a yes vote for that candidate.

Then if the voter has filled in the oval for the other three filed candidates and adds a write in, the machine could count five votes for the four positions. If that’s the case, Thompson said, the machine treats that as an over-count, and invalid for that contest.