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Counties detail voting process

FAIRMONT — With the general election coming up and the continuation of COVID-19 concerns, there are a lot of questions about mail-in voting, absentee voting and where to vote in person.

Martin County Auditor/Treasurer Jessica Korte and Faribault County Chief Deputy Auditor/Accountant Jessica Blair offer insight into their respective counties’ operating procedures.

Korte said both Martin County and the city of Fairmont have seen their polling locations change for the 2020 general election, as well as how absentee and mail-in voting will work.

“With the primary, we’ve had a higher number of absentee ballots going out,” she said, noting that more than 1,000 absentee ballots were initially sent out toward the end of September.

“Once they get there, people can apply online or apply on paper and either mail it or bring it in,” she continued. “If you’re not in a mail ballot precinct then you’re considered absentee.”

Because both the Martin County Courthouse and the main road in front of the courthouse are under construction, Korte said Martin County voters can now drop off their completed absentee or mail ballots at 1200 N. State St., Fairmont, in a drop box set up for that specific purpose. People do need to make sure they follow the rules and drop off only their own ballot, as well as making sure the envelope is signed and sealed.

The location also will serve as the main polling place where voters can vote in person.

“Hopefully it will be better parking, easier access, one level, and a little bit more spread out for social distancing,” she said.

The polling place for absentee or mail-in ballots is not the only location change this year. Korte notes that the city of Fairmont will not be utilizing the Knights of Columbus Hall for the general election.

“The Knights of Columbus Hall was the polling place on election day for the city of Fairmont,” she said. “So the city of Fairmont cannot go to mail ballots because their numbers are too high, but they are moving from the Knights of Columbus to the Armory.”

The National Guard Armory is located at 700 N. Fairlakes Ave.

Going back to absentee voting, Korte said people can vote absentee from 46 days before the election, up until the day before election day.

“So, if you want to avoid the polls on election day, you can absentee vote in person here, or you can request your ballot by mail and mail it in,” she said. “Then mail balloting is a little bit different, whereas those people in a mail ballot precinct just get their ballot mailed to them automatically if they’re registered and they fill it out and bring it back in. So they don’t have to request a ballot and fill out an application like an absentee voter would, and the county is their polling place on election day.”

In Faribault County, Blair says mail-in/absentee and in-person voting is pretty straightforward, with the Faribault County Courthouse serving as the primary location.

“We’ve got 11 precincts that are mail ballot precincts, and they get their ballots mailed directly to them as long as they are a registered voter,” she said. “As for absentee voters, there’s been a lot of different organizations within the state of Minnesota sending people applications.

“But they can also call our office to request an application that we would mail to them, or they can apply online. They are able to come into our courthouse and vote as well,” she said.

Both counties report no complications in finding election judges, despite COVID-19 concerns among the elderly population who make up the majority of volunteers.

“Most of our election judges are probably in that older population that should be more cautious, that COVID-19 would affect more,” Korte said. “But, luckily, we haven’t had too many that have not wanted to do it, but we would understand if they didn’t want to.

“In order to be an election judge you have to have two-hour training that is available online,” she continued.

“But I think everyone has been pretty good with having election judges and I haven’t heard of too many people not signing up for the general election. But they are asking for extra people as backups in case some would get sick and can’t work on Election Day or they decide they don’t want to take that risk.

Faribault County feels likewise fortunate.

“We have not had any issue with that at all,” Blair noted. “Because the state has had a big push for people to become election judges if they are willing, if we have people call we’re taking their contact information and keeping a list in case there is a precinct that ends up needing an election judge. But we are not having an issue at this point with people not wanting to be election judges.”

As far as COVID-19 sanitary conditions, Korte notes that safety procedures for the general election will be the same as they were for the primary.

“I bought enough pens for every single registered voter in the county, so they can take those” she said. “Our procedures are similar to what it was for the primary. Every precinct, every polling place got enough pens for the voters to use throughout the whole process and then take with them so we don’t have to recycle or clean them between voters.

“In between every voter the polling booths are wiped down. We have alcohol wipes and pads for that, and then the Secretary of State provided hand sanitizer stands and masks for both election judges and voters. We also have disinfectant spray.”

Blair notes similar safety procedures in Faribault County.

“We have extra disinfecting going on for our counter and the voting booths,” she said. “Our offices are all secure and our voting stickers are already cut apart and sitting outside for people to take after they vote. We have a big supply of disposable pens, the floor is marked for social distancing, and we do require people to wear masks in the courthouse in accordance with the governor’s mandate.”

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