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Olmsted County commissioners expected to receive elections update

A review of practices and state guidelines slated to be discussed during the regular board meeting.

Primary Day/CD1 Special Election
A sign points voters in the right direction for Primary Day and the Minnesota First Congressional District Special Election on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, at Hoover Elementary School in Northwest Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Olmsted County commissioners are slated to receive an update regarding the county’s election-related work Tuesday.

A group of county residents announced plans last month to attend the meeting seeking a response to issues raised about the 2020 election, but Tuesday’s presentation is not a direct response to the concerns raised during the Aug. 16 public comment period, according to Deputy County Administrator Pete Giesen.

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The group of approximately 35 people calling themselves the Olmsted County Elections Integrity Group attended the commissioner’s last meeting to raise questions about local voter turnout during the 2020 presidential election, ask the county to preserve the 2020 ballots beyond the required period and request an option to examine voter registration postcards.

They said they planned to return for the Sept. 6 meeting to get an answer to their requests, but County Administrator Heidi Welsch sent a reply by letter six days later, pointing out the voter turnout questions raised appeared to be based on misreading of data provided by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office.

Welsch said the group apparently added the number of registered voters prior to Election Day – 100,815 – and the number who registered on Election Day – 5,786 – with the assumption that they all voted.

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When compared to the number of registered voters on Dec. 20, 2020 – 104,234 – the group raised concerns about the difference in the two numbers.

In reality, only 91,864 Olmsted County votes were reported as cast in the 2020 general election.

Additionally, overlap often exists between existing registrations prior to an election and Election Day registrations, due to the need to update addresses and other information before voting.

In her letter, Welsch said the other issues would be addressed by following state guidelines related to election procedures.

Giesen said Tuesday’s presentation will focus on an overall update on the work of the local elections staff, while sharing information regarding the various steps required by state law to safeguard the election process and results.

Welsch addressed the requirements and the county’s dedication to meeting state guidelines in the letter she sent to Stewartville resident Roger Mueller, who serves as chairman of the Olmsted County Elections Integrity Group.

“One of the county’s four goals is to maintain the foundations of democracy,” she wrote. “Providing accurate and fair elections is one primary way we meet this goal.”

The commissioners will receive the elections update as part of their meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

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Upcoming meetings

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of Sept. 5 include:

Rochester

  • Airport Commission, 2 p.m. Tuesday in the administration conference room of City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE.
  • City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday In council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/meetings/council-meetings and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
  • Energy Commission study session, 4 p.m. Wednesday in room 104 of City Hall.
  • City Council, 7 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers of the Government Center. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/meetings/council-meetings and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

Olmsted County

  • Physical Development Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 4 of the Government Center.
  • Administrative Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in board chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.
  • Board of County Commissioners, 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the Government Center.
  • Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, 10 a.m. Wednesday in conference room 2 for the city-county Government Center.
  • Human Rights Commission, 6 p.m. Thursday in conference room 2 of the Government Center.

Rochester Public Schools

  • School Board, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW.
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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