Twin Cities election officials seek to quell mail-in voting fears

A Minnesota ballot for the 2020 general election.

Election officials from Minnesota's two largest counties on Thursday tried to calm nervous voters about the absentee voting process.

Hennepin County administrators have seen a growing number of voters bringing back unmarked absentee ballots -- ones they'd requested in the mail -- and asking for a ballot to be handed to them in-person instead. Some of the voters said they feared their mailed ballot wouldn't be counted, county election manager Ginny Gelms said.

"One thing we’re trying to do is correct a misunderstanding that’s out there," Gelms told reporters. "It’s just as safe to send back the ballot in the mail as it is to come to an in person voting location and vote in person."

Gelms and Ramsey County election managers David Triplett both explained absentee voting to the Senate Elections committee Thursday. The panel is controlled by Republicans, who have raised doubts about security ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Gelms and Triplett said all absentee ballot drop-off locations in their respective counties are staffed. That's a major safeguard against fraud, they said.

A Minnesota law also allows a person to bring in only three people's ballots besides their own.

"We specifically call them ballot return locations, where you need to come inside our building, hand your ballot to our election judges," Triplett told the committee. "We ask if this is your own ballot. If you say no, we log your name and we have you sign that. State law also requires that you show us an ID to show who you are."

Last month, the right-wing group Project Veritas alleged -- with little evidence -- widespread voter fraud was happening in Minneapolis. FOX 9 has since revealed that one of the subjects said he was bribed.

The election officials' statements about staffed drop-off boxes and safeguards against ballot "harvesting" contradict the right-wing group's claims.

In many rural Minnesota towns, all registered voters get a ballot mailed to them automatically, a process that's been going on for years with few reported issues. The process is different in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, where registered voters must request an absentee ballot be mailed to them.

"I’m fairly comfortable with absentee balloting. My concern is the mail-in (ballots)," said state Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault.

Senate Democrats said they came away from Thursday's hearing feeling that Minnesota's election was in good hands.

“The hearing today demonstrated the integrity of our elections, and that Minnesota’s voters are being well served by the work of our county election administrators and the Secretary of State," said state Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan.

Minnesota voters have until Nov. 3 to postmark their absentee ballot or physically drop it off at the location that's noted in the packet of information they get along with the ballot. It will count as long as it's received by Nov. 10.