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Mark Thompson, assistant Kandiyohi County auditor, left, and Michelle Hanson, deputy auditor-treasurer, check supplies Monday that will go to county precincts for today's primary election. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Absentee ballots double in county

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County voters apparently got the message to vote by absentee ballot if they were unable to go to the polls for today's primary election.

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By Monday night, about 375 absentee ballot applications had been processed.

When the final delivery of completed ballots is delivered to the county office at 3 p.m. today, the total figure could be around 400.

That's double the average number of absentee ballots cast in previous primary elections, said Kandiyohi County Auditor Sam Modderman.

In the last four primary elections, the average number of absentee ballots was 200, Modderman said.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has also reported that the number of absentee ballots statewide is up this year, with about 29,000 returned by Monday night.

That surprising response is likely due to the early date of the primary. For the first time, Minnesota is holding its primary in August, when many people are on vacation.

The early date was selected in order to allow enough time for military personnel and other overseas citizens to send their ballots back.

The earlier date also allows more time for a recount, if one is necessary, to be completed before the November general election.

While some people voted absentee because they will be gone, Modderman is hoping the high absentee turnout will mean more people will also turn up at the polls.

Pundits have been predicting a low voter turnout for today's election.

Modderman said he hopes that a high interest in several local primary races could bring more people out to vote today.

Besides the earlier date, another new state mandated component of the election is implementing an absentee ballot board that will process and tabulate all absentee ballots cast in all 47 precincts in the county.

For the last couple weeks, this board has been doing the initial processing, including accepting or rejecting absentee ballots based on voter identification information. Individuals who cast rejected ballots were contacted, Modderman said, so that errors could be fixed and their ballots could be counted.

The board will begin counting the absentee ballots at 8 p.m. today in the community room at the Health and Human Services Building. Law requires this board count the absentee ballots in public, Modderman said, adding that a public viewing area will be available.

Absentee ballots from Willmar will be counted using a machine and the rest of the ballots from Kandiyohi County will be hand-counted.

The regular ballots cast at the polls will be counted by machine by the precinct election judges.

Because election judges in each precinct will not be bogged down processing absentee ballots, Modderman said it's possible the results will be known earlier than in the past.

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