16 Lyon County precincts using mail-in ballots for primary election
By Jenny Kirk
MARSHALL — A growing number of Lyon County precincts have opted to use mail-in ballots for Minnesota primary elections. But as the Aug. 14 election draws near, there are still questions and concerns about the process.
According to Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg, there are 33 total precincts in the county. That includes 20 townships and 10 cities, along with Marshall, which has three precincts of its own.
“Right now, Lyon County has 16 precincts that are using mail-in ballots,” he said. “There were only 10 for the election two years ago, so we have six new ones using the system this year. In total, we sent out almost 2,400 mail-in ballots in July.”
Moberg said a lot of those ballots have been filled out and sent back in, but that his office is still fielding calls from area voters.
“We’ve had some people contact us, saying they thought (the mail-in ballot) was propaganda and they threw it away,” Moberg said. “We tried to get information out ahead of time via a postcard, to let the voters know it was a real ballot, but it’s not necessarily something people are accustomed to.”
If voters have not yet mailed their ballot, there are still options available to them to make sure their vote gets counted. Ballots that are received after 8 p.m. on Aug. 14 will not be counted.
“It voters are worried about meeting the deadline, they can walk their ballots into the polling place,” Moberg said. “That way they have peace of mind that it will meet the deadline. People can come (to the Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer Office) during normal business hours. We’re also open this Saturday from 10 a.m.to 3 p.m.”
With mail from Lyon County having to go through the metro area before returning, there’s no way to know if mailed ballots will arrive in time.
“We sometimes get questions about whether or not ballots will make it or not,” Moberg said. “And it needs to be here by Tuesday to be counted (not just postmarked). People need to make sure they leave enough time or just drop it off.”
Moberg said ID is typically needed to drop off another family members mail-in ballot, for example. It’s OK to do that, but office personnel will have to note that.
“We’re required to do that,” he said. “We just have to note it — who they are, what the name and address is and get a signature along with an ID.”
Moberg added that a voter could also trade a mail-in ballot for an absentee ballot, again, by coming into the auditor/treasurer office.
“For the last seven days before an election, we can also offer the option of using a ballot box outside my office,” he said. “People can chose to put their ballot right into the machine. That ends on Monday at 5 p.m. On Tuesday, they have to use the envelope process.”
Moberg said each precinct can make the call on whether to use same-day voting or the newer mail-in system.
“A lot of them are doing the mail-in ballots so they don’t have to staff election judges for all those hours,” he said. “There’s also a better turnout. As long as you get the signatures for witnesses, it’s an easier way to do it.”
Some precincts have had trouble getting election judges in the past. It also gets to be a long, exhausting day for election judges.
“It’s been hard for some to find election judges,” Moberg said. “They also have to go through judges training and be available. They’ll start at 6 a.m. and be here long after the polls close at 8 p.m. They have to reconcile the rosters and bring everything back to my office. Typically, the primary isn’t a real late night, but it can get really late for the general election.”
The Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer Office (2nd floor of the Lyon County Government Center at 607 West Main Street in Marshall) is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On Tuesday, the office will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“The process (of collecting mail-in ballots being dropped off) generally goes pretty fast,” Moberg said. “There are periods of time, where it picks up and gets busier, but if someone is just returning their own ballot, we typically just take them from them. It’s a pretty quick process.”
The townships using mail-in ballots are: Amiret, Coon Creek, Custer, Eidsvold, Fairview, Grandview, Lake Marshall, Lucas, Shelburne, Sodus, Stanley and Vallers. The cities using mail-in ballots include: Florence, Garvin, Ghent and Taunton.