Absentee ballots available in Minnesota

Lee VandenBusch

The state of Minnesota began mailing absentee ballots last week for the Nov. 7 general election to anyone who had already applied.

People who will be absent from their precinct the day of the election are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot. Examples include students attending school and anyone serving in the military.

“We’ve really gotten this information out,” Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer said. “We’ve been promoting it more heavily in regards to making sure we make use of it.”

In 2004, Minnesota saw record absentee ballot turnout at 8.15 percent of voters. Kiffmeyer said she expects a large turnout this year as well, due in part to the high voter interest in this year’s election.

“We’ve encouraged all of the counties to order extra ballots for this Nov. 7 election,” she said.

Actuarial science senior Noah Langseth voted absentee in the 2004 presidential election. He said he followed his local elections fairly closely so he’d be informed.

“It was real simple,” Langseth said. “I went through the secretary of state Web site. Just go online, print off the thing and send it in.”

Voters must apply for a ballot to absentee vote. Voters can find the application at the secretary of state’s Web site. Once completed, the form must be returned to the local county auditor’s office, which will then mail the ballot.

Absentee voters may also vote in person before the election, Kiffmeyer said.

“You don’t have to do it through the mail,” Kiffmeyer said. “Polls are open the Saturday before, including Hennepin County.”

Absentee voters must also be registered to vote before their ballots will be accepted.

One option available for voters looking to register is preregistration, which can be done by filling out a registration card and sending it to the county auditor’s office through the mail. Preregistration forms must be received by Tuesday.

Absentee voters can also take advantage of Minnesota’s same-day registration.

“You can actually register with your absentee ballot,” said Minneapolis Director of Elections Cindy Reichert. “You just send in a card.”

There are drawbacks to absentee voting. Kiffmeyer said at-home voters don’t get the same Election Day assistance, and voting in person is more reliable.

“Things do get lost in the mail,” Kiffmeyer said. “You also don’t have the benefit of the technology to check for a procedural error. That’s a big deal.”

For his part, Langseth said he found the process easy and said he had no problems.

“I’m actually going to vote again absentee,” Langseth said.

Kiffmeyer urged students to vote, whether in person or not.

“An absentee vote is better than taking the risk of no vote at all,” she said.

Absentee ballots must be received at the county auditor’s office by 8 p.m. Nov. 7. Officials suggested allowing for mailing time.