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Absentee voting more popular this year ; state sees requests top 100K month before election

BEMIDJI – An increasing number of Minnesota voters, including those in Beltrami County, are requesting absentee ballots in advance of November’s general election.

“We’re having a good incidence of absentee requests,” said Kay Mack, auditor/treasurer for Beltrami County. “We’ve sent out a large number of them considering the election is four weeks away.”

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Thursday that more than 100,000 Minnesota voters have requested absentee ballots. Of those, 41,208 have already been returned by the voter and accepted.

The number of absentee ballot requests in Beltrami County wasn’t immediately available, but Mack said her office has received more compared to the last presidential election.

In 2008, there were 1,888 absentee ballots cast. That’s slightly more than 8 percent of the 23,313 total ballots cast in the election.

Beltrami County could easily top the 2008 numbers. “The big push comes the last week or two,” Mack said.

One reason for Beltrami County’s large percentage of absentee votes is deer hunting season, which opens Nov. 3 this year. The election is Nov. 6, and many hunters will be out of their precincts and unable to cast a ballot.

“Voters still have time left before the Nov. 6 general election to vote by absentee ballot,” Ritchie said. “I urge voters who will be out of their precincts on Election Day and who wish to cast a ballot to fill out their absentee ballot applications and send them in today, or visit their county auditor’s office to cast their absentee ballots in-person.”

According to Ritchie, an eligible Minnesota voter may cast an absentee ballot for one of the following reasons: absence from the precinct, observance of religious discipline or holiday, illness or disability, serving as an election judge in another precinct, or when an emergency is declared by the governor or a quarantine is declared by the federal or state government.

Some states, like North Dakota, set up early voting centers in addition to absentee ballots. The centers allowing voters to cast their ballots early for any reason.

“People should not be using absentee as a way of doing early voting,” Mack said.

From an election administration standpoint, Mack said early voting would be less efficient and more expensive to process.

Absentee voting also presents similar challenges.

“It’s not efficient and it’s not inexpensive,” Mack said.

This year, her office hired two additional people to help run tests on election machines. Nearly 12,300 ballots – about half the number of voters who will cast ballots on Election Day – will be fed through scan machines in advance as the county tests for statistically valid results.

The absentee ballot periods runs through Nov. 5. In Beltrami County, voters can vote absentee at the courthouse between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Nov. 3 and until 5 p.m. Nov. 5.

Voters do not need to be registered to vote to apply for an absentee ballot. If a voter is not registered to vote, they will receive a Voter Registration Application with their absentee ballot.

In addition, the Secretary of State said voters can track the status of their absentee ballot online. For more information, visit Military and overseas voters use a different absentee balloting process, which is detailed at

All voters can find out who is running for office in their precinct and create a sample ballot by visiting the Secretary of State’s website at

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

(701) 780-1104