Absentee voting in Minnesota: More than 400,000 ballots cast

- In a high-rise building in downtown Minneapolis 150 election workers are pouring over crates of absentee ballots submitted from voters in Hennepin County suburbs.

“Folks are working and we’re getting it done,” said Ginny Gelms, Hennepin County Elections Manager.

In fact, more than 150 workers are opening ballots one by one and verifying the voter’s name on each signature envelope with the ballot envelope inside. State law requires two election workers verify each ballot before it can get put into the reading machine to get counted.

“It definitely takes a little bit of focusing between you and your partner,” said Alex Grieme.  “First, you have to count and sort 400-plus envelopes at a time and make sure that number is what was given at the precinct originally. So, it’s a little bit hectic, but you get through it pretty easily, pretty quickly.”

Hennepin County has already received more than 100,000 turned in ballots.

“We’re expecting more ballots than we’ve ever had before,” said Gelms. “In Hennepin County we’re expecting a 150,000 voters to cast their votes via absentee.  Our previous record was 82,000.  So, we are blowing the lid off of our record.” 

That previous record was in 2008 for the historic voter turnout to elect Barack Obama.

In this election cycle, Minnesota has liberalized election laws to make it easier for voters to cast an absentee ballot by not needing to list an excuse for missing Election Day.  The law change has lead to a record number of voters across the state casting absentee ballots. As of today, the Secretary of State’s Office reports 415,986 ballots have been accepted—a 280% increase over the 2014 midterm elections.

The absentee ballots now being processed are also tabulated, but the votes are not yet reported. 

“So even through the ballots have been processed by the ballot counters, we don’t know what they say, we don’t know what the results are,” said Gelms.

RELATED: Early voting starts in Minneapolis

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