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Absentee voting starts today

There’s a strong interest in early voting this year, Lyon Co. auditor/treasurer says

Photo by Deb Gau When voters request an absentee ballot, they get not only a ballot, but instructions on how to fill it out and mail it in, said Lyon County Auditor E.J. Moberg. It’s important to read through and follow the instructions to help make sure your ballot is accepted, he said.

MARSHALL — Absentee voting for November’s general election starts today, and it already looks like Lyon County voters are showing a lot of interest in casting early ballots.

Before Thursday, the county had received almost 1,800 requests for absentee ballots, said Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg.

Add in the roughly 4,200 people in Lyon County who will receive mail ballots, and the election is shaping up to be one that will be heavy on mail-in voting.

“Typically, we have about 13,000 voters in presidential election years,” Moberg said.

This week, Moberg gave the Independent an overview on voting through absentee or mail ballots. One thing voters should keep in mind this year is timing, he said.

For people interested in casting an absentee ballot, “I would encourage voters to try to request their ballots early, and not wait until the end,” Moberg said. While county staff can help make sure voters are able to cast their ballots, it’s easier when they can send out a requested ballot with more lead time. “Within the last week (of absentee voting), it’s hard,” he said.

Voters sending in an absentee or mail vote also need to make sure it’s postmarked on or before Election day.

There are two ways Lyon County voters can cast a ballot before Election Day and without going to a physical polling place. They can request an absentee ballot, or vote using a mail ballot. There’s a difference between the two, Moberg said: absentee ballots are for people who vote in a precinct that has physical polling places, while mail ballots are sent to all registered voters in precincts that have decided not to have in-person voting.

The decision on whether or not to have a physical polling place is made by individual cities and townships, Moberg said. This year, only seven out of Lyon County’s 33 voting precincts will have a physical polling place on Nov. 3. The city of Marshall’s three voting wards, and the cities of Cottonwood, Minneota, Russell and Tracy will have in-person polling places, while all of the other Lyon County cities and townships have opted for mail ballots.

Lyon County voters can apply for absentee ballots by contacting the county Auditor/Treasurer’s Office. Another easy way to apply is by going to www.mnvotes.org, Moberg said. The website, run by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office, allows residents to register to vote, request and track absentee ballots, and see a sample ballot for their voting precinct.

Voters registered in a precinct that opted for mail-in ballots should watch for the ballot to arrive in the mail. Moberg said he anticipated mail ballots would start arriving sometime between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1. If you don’t receive a ballot by Election Day, you can go to the Lyon County Government Center to vote. The polling place at the government center will be open until 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

When you receive an absentee ballot or mail ballot, it’s important to follow the included instructions to fill it out and return it.

“There are some differences from past years,” Moberg said. This year, witnesses are not going to be required in order to cast an absentee or mail vote.

Absentee and mail ballots can be mailed in, delivered by hand to the Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office, or placed in the secure drop box in the lobby of the Lyon County Government Center. Ballots can be returned by hand until 3 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Moberg said the new drop box at the government center is meant to be more convenient for people turning in ballots. In person, you can only deliver your own ballot, unless you fill out agent delivery paperwork, he said.

If a ballot is returned by mail, it must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3. This year, Lyon County will accept ballots by mail until Nov. 10, but only if the postmark meets the deadline. Moberg encouraged voters to be careful — if you bring a ballot to the post office on Election Day, request that the envelope receives a Nov. 3 postmark, he said.

On Election Day, the Lyon County Government Center in Marshall will serve as the polling place for mail voting precincts. However, before then any early voter in Lyon County can also come to the government center, Moberg said.

People with questions about voting or elections can contact the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office at 507-537-6724.

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