Absentee Voting (copy)

Bob and Diane Krogh, of Rochester, fill out their absentee ballots for the upcoming primary Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, in the Olmsted County elections office near the fairgrounds in Rochester. 

Note to voters: Absentee voting for the presidential primary election begins Friday and runs through March 2. 

The experience will be new to Minnesota voters. It will be the first time since 1992 that Minnesotans will vote for presidential candidates through a primary rather than a caucus process. 

Voters should find it much more convenient, election officials say. 

Are you planning to vote in this year's presidential primary election?

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Absentee balloting will end on March 2. The process will culminate on March 3, "Super Tuesday," when Minnesota and 13 other states will hold presidential primaries. More than one-third of the U.S. population is expected to vote on March 3. 

The Republican ballot is fielding only one candidate, President Donald Trump. There are 15 presidential candidates on the Democratic ballot. Voters can only choose one of the ballots. 

Mark Krupski, Olmsted County director of property records and licensing, said he anticipates a high turnout in Rochester absentee voting, a reflection spurred by strong interest in the presidential race and the growing popularity of absentee ballots. 

Party caucuses will still be held Feb. 25, but they won't be used to pick a presidential candidate.

Caucuses were seen as victims of their own success. When interest was high in a presidential election, roads were often congested and people had troubling attending them, especially when it was held on a single night right after work. 

People are starting to like voting absentee.

In the 2018 midterm elections, 27% of votes in Rochester were cast using absentee ballots, three times more than those cast in the 2010 midterms. The numbers have steadily climbed since the state authorized "no-excuse voting," which allows people to cast absentee ballots without the excuse of sickness or being out of town.

People can cast an absentee ballot from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the 4H Building in Graham Park. You can also order one online on the Olmsted County elections webpage. 

Absentee voting tends to pick up as an election approaches. To handle the potential overflow, the county is setting up two "pop-up" locations. The pop-ups will be open Feb. 25 through March 2. One site will be 125 Live, 125 Elton Hills Drive, and the other Conference Room 2 in the Olmsted County Government Center, 151 4th St. SE.

Hours of operation at the pop-ups will be 8 a.m to 5 p.m., except for Feb. 25 and Feb. 27, when they will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Krupski said the national standard is that no voter should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote absentee. But when the county had only one location and a crush of voters arrived to vote, waits could last an hour to an hour and a half. Hence the pop-up sites, which were first tried in Ramsey County. 

"We want to disperse it a little bit for improved voter experience and greater access," Krupski said.

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