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Early voting numbers are booming in Lyon County

MARSHALL — There are three weeks left before Election Day, and already Lyon County has received a large number of early ballots, said county Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg. As of Wednesday afternoon, the county auditor/treasurer’s office had accepted 2,763 ballots — the third highest number of mail and absentee ballots for any election in Lyon County.

Absentee and mail-in voter participation has been rising in Lyon County over the past four years, especially as more voting precincts have switched to using mail ballots only. In the 2016 election, the auditor/treasurer’s office accepted a total of 2,978 mail and absentee ballots, and in the 2018 election they accepted a record 3,047 ballots, Moberg said.

Moberg said the auditor’s office expected to see high numbers of mail-in ballots in this year’s general election. The county has sent out a total of 7,606 ballots to voters this fall. That number included both mail ballots, which are sent to all registered voters in a mail ballot precinct, and absentee ballots, which can be requested by voters in a precinct that has in-person voting. This year, only seven of the county’s 33 precincts — Marshall’s three voting wards, and the cities of Cottonwood, Minneota, Russell and Tracy — will have physical polling places.

Of the more than 7,000 ballots sent out, 2,801 have been returned by voters, and 2,763 have been accepted, Moberg said. When the Lyon County auditor/treasurer’s office receives mail or absentee ballots, they are checked by staff members who are part of a ballot board. The ballot board doesn’t look at how a person voted, but whether the ballot was correctly signed and turned in, he said.

Not all of the ballots the county receives are accepted, Moberg said. Mail or absentee ballots can be rejected if they aren’t signed by the voter, if the absentee ballot envelope doesn’t have the voter’s I.D. number on it, or if the voter’s signature doesn’t match the name on the envelope. As of Tuesday afternoon, 36 ballots had been rejected in Lyon County.

If an absentee ballot or mail ballot is accepted, it is filed by voting precinct and kept in secure storage at the Lyon County Government Center until the auditor/treasurer’s office can officially start scanning ballots. Moberg said the county will be able to start processing ballots Oct. 21. Election judges working in teams of two will process the ballots, but vote tallies won’t be known before election night.

“Even internally, we’re not going to know how people are voting,” Moberg said.

With a bigger number of absentee and mail ballots being turned in, it will be more work to process them all. However, Moberg said his goal is for all early ballots to be counted by election night.

“We’re going to be increasing the number of judges we hire,” he said. Hopefully, the 14 days before the election will also allow enough time to process all the early ballots.

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