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No Kandiyohi County drop boxes for absentee ballots this year or in elections going forward

Absentee voters will not be able to drop their completed ballots in a drop box at the Kandiyohi County Office Building in downtown Willmar this year. County Auditor Mark Thompson recommended not allowing the use of a drop box for upcoming elections. The use of a box was allowed in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Drop off box at Kandiyohi County Office Building in downtown Willmar.JPG
For upcoming elections, absentee ballots will not be allowed to be dropped in the drop-off box at the Kandiyohi County Office Building in downtown Willmar. Those ballots will either need to be put in the mail or submitted in-person at the County Auditor's Office.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
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WILLMARKandiyohi County citizens planning to cast their vote this year using an absentee ballot will not have the option to drop the completed ballot in a drop box at the County Office Building in downtown Willmar.

County Auditor/Treasurer Mark Thompson, at Tuesday's meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board, recommended the county not continue the use of the drop box for absentee ballots, but instead go back to how things operated prior to the pandemic. Thompson said having a box, which is not mandated by state, just opens up the possibility for conflict.

"People can hand their ballots to staff," Thompson said. "We don't need that drop box."

Absentee voters can also still drop their completed ballots in a mailbox and allow the U.S. Postal Service to deliver it.

The county allowed the use of the drop box during the first year of the pandemic, when social distancing guidelines were in place and the county was trying to limit the number of people entering its buildings. For a time the buildings were also closed to the public.

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"Today, we are somewhat back to normal," Thompson said.

While no vote of the County Board was needed, based on comments from the commissioners, they agreed with Thompson's recommendation not to continue using the drop box.

"When you have something like this, there is a lot of controversy," said Commissioner Duane Anderson. "The perception is there that a lot of bad things that can happen with these drop boxes."

If a ballot is dropped in the county box, which will still be used for things such as property tax payments and vehicle registration, the ballot will be rejected and the voter notified.

"We would spoil the ballot and call the person and let them know they have to cast another ballot," Thompson said.

Once absentee ballots arrive at the County Auditor's Office, an absentee/mail ballot board will either accept or reject the ballot based on state and federal statues. The County Board approved the resolution to establish such a board at Tuesday's meeting.

"It is an excellent job," said Commissioner Corky Berg, who has served as an election judge in the past.

More Kandiyohi County Board:
The letter writer wrote "We believe this information about the change is important to share with all the people in Kandiyohi County. We hope that the commissioners reverse their decision."

One of the rules of the ballot board is there needs to be equal party representation across the judges, meaning each of the four major parties in Minnesota has the same number of judges on the board. The four major parties in Minnesota are Republican Party of Minnesota, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, Legal Marijuana Now Party and Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party.

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While it may only be early June, the county has to be ready for the election season. Citizens can begin voting by mail or in person at their local county auditor's office on June 24 for the Aug. 9 primary election. Early voting for the Nov. 8 general election begins on Sept. 23. Despite being cast early, those votes are not tabulated until after the polls close on Election Day.

Commissioner Rollie Nissen said he believes voters are able to vote too early now. He feels candidates are not given enough time to speak with voters about why they would be a good choice for elected office before votes are cast.

"Early voting, it is getting carried away," Nissen said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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