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7 things to know if planning to vote early in Olmsted County

Absentee voting options start on Friday.

Olmsted County Elections
Luke Turner, Olmsted County Elections manager, goes over ballot counting during an informational presentation about Olmsted County Elections on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Voters will have 46 days starting Friday to cast their ballots in the Aug. 9 primary election.

Here are a few things to know about voting early in Olmsted County:

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1. You can order a ballot online or by mail. 
Olmsted County isn’t automatically sending ballots to registered voters this year, but ballots can be ordered.

Voters can request a ballot online at www.sos.state.mn.us , and Olmsted County voters can seek a ballot at the county’s new absentee voting center at 2122 Campus Drive SE, Suite 300.

Kathryn Smith, Olmsted County’s associate director of property records and licensing, said 500 to 600 ballots had been requested by Tuesday morning, and the first ballots will be mailed to voters Friday.

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2. It’s not too late (or too early) to register. 

Minnesota allows voters to register at the polls, but registration can also be completed through the Secretary of State’s website, online or through the mail. Registration is also available at absentee voting locations.

The process requires a Minnesota driver’s license or Minnesota identification card number, or the last four numbers of your Social Security number.

3. Olmsted County has closed its drop box. 

While a drop box for mail-in ballots was available in 2020, Luke Turner, Olmsted County’s elections manager, said it isn’t expected to be used this year.

Olmsted County ballots can be mailed to the new absentee voting center or dropped off at the voting center or the information desk at the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE, during business hours.

Voters can also register, request a ballot, fill it out and turn it in during a single visit to the voting center.

4. A witness signature is again needed for mailed ballots. 

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The need for a witness signature on mailed ballots was temporarily dropped in 2020 amid quarantining efforts, but Smith said voters will again be required to obtain a witness if mailing in a ballot.

5. Ballots can be changed until two weeks before the election. 

Smith said voters who turn their ballots in early can cast new ballots, if they change their minds, as long as the envelopes aren’t opened to start the counting process, which begins a week before Election Day.

The process for casting a new ballot requires contacting the voting center and asking for the old ballot to be discarded while requesting a new ballot.

Olmsted County Elections
Kathryn Smith, associate director of Olmsted County Property Records and Licensing, speaks during an informational presentation about Olmsted County Elections on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

6. Keep an eye out for voter verification cards. 

Smith said the county will be sending cards to registered voters to inform them of their polling location, which is important after many precincts changed with redrawn districts and city wards.

The cards also inform election officials when a resident has moved, since the post office is required to return them to the election center if the resident no longer lives at the address.

7. Direct voting starts a week before Election Day. 

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Voters who want to avoid Election Day lines but still want to hand feed their ballots into a machine, will be able to do so for the week before the election.

Turner said two locations will be available for the primary election, one in the absentee voting office and another at the city-county Government Center.

The direct voting options will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 3 through Aug. 5; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 6; and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 8.

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Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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