Minnesota’s absent absentee ballots

This past election saw about 8,000 absentee ballots thrown.

Marjorie Otto

College is a time of many firsts, and voting is usually one of them.

Because so many students live far from home and want to stay involved with their hometown politics, absentee voting is a popular option.

While absentee voting seems quick and easy — you can request a ballot to be sent to your house and, with a few signatures, send it off to be counted — ballots can be rejected. 

According to the secretary of state, Minnesotans cast about 2.9 million ballots this election — a record number. 

Of those cast, the Secretary of State received about 275,000 absentee ballots — but 8,000 of those were not counted, according to unofficial reports. 

Despite years of simplifying the absentee ballot system, ballots are still being turned away due to defects in the authentication process.

“I would feel very disappointed if my vote wasn’t counted,” said freshman Kasey Sheeran, who voted absentee in her home state of Wisconsin. 

The Process

When a Minnesota voter gets an absentee ballot, they must send it back in three different envelopes.

There are several things beyond filling out the ballot that voters need to do in order for their vote to be counted.

For example, voters must have a registered Minnesota voter sign as a
witness.

Hennepin County election officials said the top-three reasons why absentee ballots are turned away are a lack of a witness signature, forgetting to sign a registration form with the ballot and not signing all the proper forms. 

Can this be made easier?

The secretary of state couldn’t release the number of rejected ballots from prior elections because of minor changes to the process of absentee voting in the state.

But the secretary of state’s office has been working on ways to simplify this system.

In 2010, the secretary of the state unveiled a new absentee ballot-tracking system. Located on the secretary of state website, any registered voter can check if their ballot has been counted by giving their name, birthday and identification number — like a social security or driver’s license number.

There is also a system in place to warn voters if his or her ballot has been
rejected.

If the absentee ballot is reviewed by the absentee ballot board five days prior to the election and is rejected, election officials will mail a replacement ballot to the voter.

If the ballot is reviewed less than five days before the election, election officials must try to contact the voter by phone or email.