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Absent — but still voting

By Mike Dougherty

The Post-Bulletin

Michael Kavros, a senior at the University of Minnesota Duluth, missed the mail-in deadline for absentee voting, so he drove down from Duluth to cast his ballot in Rochester.

The Air Force ROTC student and Mayo High School graduate was one of nearly 200 people who filed through the doors at the city-county Government Center on Friday as the wave of absentee voters built toward what’s expected to be its crescendo today, with as many as 30 voters per hour casting their ballots ahead of Tuesday’s Election Day.

"My vote counts, and I want to make it count," Kavros said.

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty will receive the benefit of Kavros’ diligence.

"I like our current governor and what he’s doing," Kavros said after he cast his vote Friday afternoon.

Absentee ballot voting has been growing each election in Minnesota and nationally.

Olmsted County mailed nearly 2,100 ballots to voters who requested them, about two-thirds of the total of the presidential election year of 2004, said John Sprenger, an Olmsted County election technician.

Norm Meeks of Rochester is going to be out of town on Election Day, so he slipped in and out of the Government Center on Friday afternoon, casting his ballot.

Meeks said he voted for mostly Republicans, but Rep. Gil Gutknecht didn’t get his vote, because Meeks was upset with the congressman’s response to his letter about a Social Security issue.

As Meeks left the Government Center, four more people came in to vote. The rate of voters coming in was about 10 per hour. "It gets crazy from now through election night," said Pam Fuller, the Olmsted County election administrator.

The daily stream of absentee voters topped the 100-mark on Oct. 26 and has grown above that level each day since. Officials expected to top 200 walk-in voters on Friday, and it’s possible as many as 300 voters today.

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In 2004, more than 8 percent or about 231,000 of those voting in Minnesota voted by absentee ballot. It was the highest total in Minnesota to date.

In Olmsted County in 2004, 9 percent of the voters in Olmsted County or 6,761 cast absentee ballots, according to the Olmsted County Auditor’s Office.

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