COVID-19 impacts Blue Earth County election planning

Updated: Apr. 14, 2020 at 7:15 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Blue Earth County is waiting for more guidance as COVID-19 impacts election planning, election officials said.

The county would normally start recruiting election judges around this time but can’t without knowing how to plan appropriately, according to county Elections Administrator Michael Stalberger.

The county said they would also start making sure resources are in place in May to be ready for early voting for the primary on Aug. 11.

“And so that’s why we really need to start understanding what the elections world is going to look like for August and for November so we can start going down that path," Stalberger said.

DFL state lawmakers have recently proposed sending an absentee ballot to all registered voters.

“In southern Minnesota, we’re concerned about rural communities, the elderly, people with disabilities and the effect of COVID-19 on the ability to get to the ballot box,” Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL – North Mankato) said in a conference call last week. “We should not have Minnesotans have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

Republican lawmakers, like Rep. Jeremy Munson (R - Lake Crystal) have expressed concerns like potential voter fraud over sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

“We shouldn’t be sending out ballots to every single person,” Munson said. “If someone does not want to vote in person they can request a ballot to be sent to them by mail, but it’s pretty dangerous to just send a ballot to every single registered voter.”

Stalberger said the county is prepared to handle a mail-in ballot approach using features they already have in place.

For example, two election judges look at each ballot that comes back.

The ballot then gets accepted into a statewide computer system so voters can’t vote multiple times.

Ballots can only be delivered to a person at their current address, meaning if they no longer live there, the ballot will be sent back.

Stalberger also said the county is considering finding polling places where it would be easier to spread out voters to have more control over crowds.

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