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Early voting underway in Minnesota

WILLMAR -- If you're going to be out of town Nov. 8, or even if you've made up your mind and can't wait to fill out that ballot, you could go vote today.

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Pam Klein, Kandiyohi County deputy auditor/ treasurer, left, instructs Rachel Anderson about the voting process Tuesday at the County Office Building in downtown Willmar. In-person absentee voting is underway across the state. Briana Sanchez / Tribune

WILLMAR - If you're going to be out of town Nov. 8, or even if you've made up your mind and can't wait to fill out that ballot, you could go vote today.

In-person absentee voting, also referred to as early voting, is underway across the state. Eligible voters will be able to vote in person at county auditors' offices every day until the election except Sunday.

Early voting is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday at the Kandiyohi County Office Building, 400 Benson Ave. S.W. Early voting sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. statewide on Saturday and until 5 p.m. Monday.

By the time in-person voting started this week, Kandiyohi County had already had more than 3,100 people vote. In presidential elections in the past, the total at the same time would have been about 2,100, said Cathy Pederson, a deputy county auditor.

Things have changed in recent years. In 2014, the Legislature allowed no-excuse absentee voting. This year is the first with early voting in the week before the election. The votes are technically still absentee ballots, but they are handled differently. They are fed into an optical scanner like those used at precincts on Election Day.

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Also new is online voter registration, said County Auditor/Treasurer Mark Thompson. "It's all computerized," he said, and it gives people another option for registering to vote. At this point, though, people who are not yet registered will need to do it when they vote, either by absentee or on Election Day.

The secretary of state's website at www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/ provides information about registration and can help voters find polling place locations and sample ballots.

Ballot security is important to the process. In-person voters are led to a room with cubicles when they fill out their ballots. Once they have finished, voters ring a doorbell, and a staff member allows them into a secure area where they feed their ballots into the scanner.

Business has been steady. Tuesday afternoon, Rachel Anderson of Willmar voted, and a man came in to vote right after her.

"I won't be in town that day, so I'm doing my civic duty," she said. She's a regular voter, so the long, two-sided ballot didn't faze her.

"The process was easy," she said. "Get out and vote."

Related Topics: KANDIYOHI COUNTY
In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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