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Prepping for primary

A drop box for absentee ballots was delivered to the Lyon County Government Center on Tuesday. Having the box will help allow for social distancing at the County Auditor’s Office on the day of the Aug. 11 primary election, said Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg.

MARSHALL — The primary election for U.S. Congress and Senate races in Minnesota is coming up in just a couple weeks. While absentee ballots are still coming in, the Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office is also taking steps that are meant to help make it easier for voters to participate while still following social distancing guidelines for COVID-19.

One of the physical signs of the changes is a red, white and blue drop box that now stands in the lobby of the Lyon County Government Center.

“It just arrived Tuesday,” said Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg. With many people showing concerns about COVID-19 in Minnesota, Moberg said the county Auditor/Treasurer’s Office has been preparing for there to be more absentee ballots than usual in the Aug. 11 primary. The drop box is a place to turn in absentee ballots, and it’s not only convenient — Moberg said it could help avoid lines or crowds forming around the polling place at the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office on election day.

“It will hold a lot,” Moberg said of the drop box, and it will be checked daily by county staff, he said.

Moberg said there will also be some statewide policy changes in place for the August primary, that are meant to make it easier for people who are trying to isolate themselves to turn in their ballots. In June, the Minnesota Secretary of State waived the requirement for absentee voters to have a witness signature in order for their ballots to be accepted. The decision came after lawsuits claiming the witness requirement could expose people to COVID-19, Moberg said.

In another change for the primary, absentee ballots will have an extra couple of days to be received by the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office. Absentee ballots will be accepted if they are postmarked on or before election day by the U.S. mail or a package delivery service, and if the county receives them by Thursday, Aug. 13. That’s the day before the county canvasses the votes.

Absentee ballots can be delivered by hand to the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office by 3 p.m. on Aug. 11.

Moberg said hand-delivery is another area where the new drop box will help. Normally, a voter can deliver only their own ballot to the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office. However, if a person wants to deliver their own their spouse’s ballots, for example, they can place the ballots in the drop box, he said.

Absentee voting for the Aug. 11 primary election started on June 26, and will continue through Monday, Aug. 10. Voters can visit the Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office at the county Government Center in Marshall, or mail or drop off an absentee ballot. The Auditor/Treasurer’s Office is open weekdays from 8-4:30 for absentee voting, and it will have special extended hours on the Saturday and Monday before the primary, Moberg said.

The Auditor/Treasurer’s Office will be open from 10-3 on Aug. 8 and from 8-5 on Aug. 10.

More county residents than ever before will be voting by mail in the August primary, Moberg said. Out of Lyon County’s 33 voting precincts, a total of 26 have opted to have mail-in ballots instead of a physical polling place.

Mail ballot precincts include the cities of Balaton, Florence, Garvin, Ghent, Lynd and Taunton; and all 20 townships in Lyon County. The full list of townships includes Amiret, Clifton, Coon Creek, Custer, Eidsvold, Fairview, Grandview, Island Lake, Lake Marshall, Lucas, Lynd Township, Lyons, Monroe, Nordland, Rock Lake, Shelburne, Sodus, Stanley, Vallers and Westerheim.

A total of 4,754 ballots have been mailed out to registered voters in mail ballot precincts around Lyon County. As of Wednesday, 352 ballots had been returned and accepted, Moberg said. However, he said there’s still some possibility of confusion, especially for voters who might be in one of the precincts that just switched over to mail ballots. Anyone who lives in one of the vote-by-mail precincts and hasn’t received a ballot should contact the Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office by calling 507-537-6724.

Moberg said voters can request a ballot, see a sample ballot, or track the status of their absentee or mail ballot, online at mnvotes.org.

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