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Blue Earth County explains the cycle of an absentee and mail-in ballot

Updated: Oct. 12, 2020 at 6:34 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Blue Earth County has sent out over 19,000 ballots so far and has accepted over 8,500 of them back.

The process of a mail-in ballot begins in a secure vault where ballots are kept before they are mailed out to the voter.

“This would be the very first part of the process where somebody’s actually making a request for the ballot," said Blue Earth County Elections Administrator Michael Stalberger.

It’s also where they store ballots that will be used at the polls on Election Day.

The Blue Earth County elections office receives hundreds of ballots each week, but it’s not as simple as storing them once they’re received.

“We receive our mail daily from the post office. Once that’s received by our office, we have two election staffers count the mail so that we get a handle on the number of physical pieces that have been delivered to us that day," said Stalberger.

After ballots have been counted, the county sorts them by type, whether it’s an absentee ballot, mail-in ballot or a ballot from a voter living overseas or serving in an active military base.

“So we pull those ballots out and separate them just for the way that we process them. Once the ballots have been separated, we have a strong count of the number of the ballots, then we can actually start opening them," Stalberger said. “At that point, we have two judges again work on them to make sure that it’s been completed correctly, to see if it has to be rejected because somebody just chose not to sign their certification, somebody maybe doesn’t put their ballot in the right envelope. We can correct some of those things before it goes back to the computer."

According to Stalberger and the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, at least two members of an absentee ballot board check that the signature envelope was filled out correctly.

Election judges check to make sure the name and address match what was on the absentee application, the voter has a signed envelope and more.

The ballots then go to one of their final steps.

“Two election judges or two staffers that actually review each and every ballot to make sure it can be accepted according to state law and state rules. They verify that the ballot was issued to that voter, that the voter voted it by identifying themselves on the ballot with their personal information and their signature and then we check that into the computer to make sure that they haven’t voted somewhere else already in the election," Stalberger said.

Election judges make sure that the number of ballots accepted matches the number of ballots expected.

“When they’re done with that then the ballots are temporarily held in our storage area," Stalberger said.

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, absentee ballots may be inserted into ballot counters as early as two weeks before election day.

However, results won’t start to become available until after polls close on election night.

If your ballot is rejected before Oct. 29, you will be mailed a replacement ballot along with an explanation of why your ballot was rejected. If your ballot is rejected within five days of the election, election officials will attempt to contact you.

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