State Primary Election set for August 11

Mike Milbrandt
Chippewa County Auditor/Treasurer Michelle May.

Minnesota’s State Primary Election will be held on Tuesday, August 11. On that day, voters will determine which candidates will be on the ballot for the November general election. Concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic may leave voters wondering how they can safely participate in the upcoming elections.

Michelle May, Chip­pewa County Auditor/­Trea­surer, wants local voters to know what their options are in regards to the primary and general elections. “We are doing our best to ensure all voters are able to safely and confidentially cast their ballot,” she said.

In Chippewa County, there are three options available for casting ballots: in-person, absentee, and mail balloting.

According to May, all polling sites within the county will be open for in-person voting on election day. “In-person voting will still be held at the TACC for the two Montevideo precincts.

“The other precincts that will have physical polling locations on Election Day are: Clara City, the City of Maynard, Sparta Township, Rosewood Township, Granite Falls Township, the City of Granite Falls, and the County Auditor/Treas­urer’s Office. In addition, any mail ballot precincts can vote in-person at the Auditor/Trea­surer’s Office on Election Day, if they choose to,” said May.

Chippewa County currently has the following precincts who vote by mail ballot for state, federal, and county elections: Rheiderland, Big Bend, Crate, Grace, Stoneham, Woods, Tunsberg, Leenthrop, Lone Tree, Havelock, Louriston, and Mandt Townships, as well as the City of Milan and the City of Watson. May said: “Voters in these precincts who are registered by July 21 will automatically be mailed a ballot in the next week or two. All precincts can vote absentee during any election. Voters can register anytime, including election day if all requirements are met.”

There is still time for voters to request an absentee ballot. However, voters should be sure they are registered to vote by July 21, which can be done at <www.mnvotes.org> To request an absentee ballot, voters must submit an absentee application, which can be found on the Chippewa County website or also visiting <www.mnvotes.org>

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, May notes the advantages of Absentee/Mail Voting. “By voting early, you can avoid lines at the polling place. By voting early you can avoid inclement election day weather, personal scheduling, conflicts, or simply forgetting to vote,” she said.

“Voting early also avoids the risk of being exposed to other people where social distancing may be hard to maintain. In addition, voters who lack transportation to the polling place, or who may physically struggle to leave their home can have the ballot delivered to their home. Another advantage is that mail balloting precincts do not have to staff polling places where election judges might be limited,” May continued.

The county is anticipating that more people will be voting absentee during this year’s upcoming elections. “The state has already seen a surge in absentee voting due to COVID-19,” said May. “As of late last week, the state had received 350,516 absentee application requests. At the same point in 2018, that number was 21,043, and in 2016, there were 12,936 absentee requests at this same time.”

May is not anticipating any complications or challenges for her office if the number of people voting absentee surges locally before election day. She said: “Our office administers the absentee and mail voting process, so our staff will be checking registrations through the statewide Voter Registration System. We will also be performing ballot board duties to review returned absentee ballot packets, and processing ballots through the tabulator.”

According to May, something new for this year’s Primary Election is that the Auditor/Treas­urer’s Office will be counting all mailed ballots postmarked on election day. “What this means,” she said, “is we will be counting received ballots two days after election day if they are postmarked on August 11. What this also means is that election results will not be available to the public until after the ballots are tabulated, which likely will be Friday, August 14.”

May offered a word of advice to voters who are sending mail-in ballots. She said: “I would recommend voters place their ballot in the mailbox before August 11th to make sure it is postmarked before or on election day. We will work with the post office to get as many ballots back as possible that were postmarked on August 11, but we need the voters to not wait until the last minute.”

Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at polling places on election day is a priority for local election administrators. May said: “Masks will be provided for election judges and voters who may not have one. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant will also be provided and used regularly.”

In addition, polling places are authorized to conduct curbside voting. “This allows the voter to remain in their vehicle while having a ballot brought to them,” said May. “There are a couple of extra steps to this process, but it does allow for voters to remain outside the polling place.”

Each polling place within the county will have different needs as far as social distancing is concerned, due to differences in layout and size. “Fortunately, the TACC is very large and will work well for social distancing as we saw in the April special election held by the Montevideo School District,” said May.

One big thing worth noting about this year’s primary election is that the witness requirement for absentee and mail ballot voting has been suspended at the direction of a Minnesota Court Order. May said: “Voters will not need a witness signature when returning their ballots. Ballots can be hand delivered at the Chippewa County Courthouse or mailed to the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office at 629 N. 11th Street in Montevideo.”

In order to accommodate absentee voting, the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office will be open for extended hours on Saturday, August 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Monday, August 10 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

May would like voters to know that her office is practicing social distancing. She said: “If voters choose to come in-person, the process may be slightly longer as we help each person. Requesting ballots by mail is still a better approach for social distancing.”

For any questions regarding this year’s elections, people can call the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office at (320) 269-7447 during regular business hours.