Hennepin County begins processing absentee ballots

At a secure location in downtown Minneapolis, thousands of votes are already being processed.

State law allows cities and counties to start processing absentee ballots a week before the election. 

Dozens of county workers and volunteers are now opening up all of those sealed ballots that voters have either mailed in or filled out in person at election offices. The ballot sheets are unfolded, flattened and run through the ballot counter.

“The law allows to start the process of running the ballots through the ballot counters prior to Election Day so that we have the time to get through all of this work and be able to report the results timely on election night,” said Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms. “But we’re not allowed to actually run the result numbers until after the polls have closed on election night.”  

Gelms says the number of absentee ballots sent in are just shy of the number collected at this point during the presidential election two years ago. She says that’s unprecedented for a midterm election. The latest numbers from across the state Thursday show that there’s a 177 percent increase in the number of accepted ballots from the last midterm election.

However, officials won’t know until election night if that means more people are in fact voting in this election or if typical Election Day turnout is simply being redistributed through early voting.