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County ‘locks in’ absentee ballots

By Staff | Dec 29, 2008

Auditor John Thompson stands by the small box of ballots, which have been kept in the vault.

Locked and sealed. Soon they will have to be delivered to North Mankato.

In question are 36 absentee ballots in Faribault County that were tossed out by local election judges and never counted in the U.S. Senate race on Nov. 4.

Statewide, there are 1,500 to 1,600 such ballots that may have been mistakenly rejected.

County auditor John Thompson says the ballots have been locked in a walk-in vault in his office and are sealed in ‘secrecy envelopes’ that have never been opened.

After corresponding with the Secretary of State Office, Thompson says he recently reviewed paperwork submitted with the absentees.

“There’s no question in my mind they were properly rejected,” says Thompson.

Ballots were not accepted mainly because instructions on the application to vote absentee were not properly followed.

Four ballots were mailed in too late to be counted. Others had signatures that did not match, did not have a signature of a witness or the voter forgot to sign.

“I don’t think there’s any fraud involved. The correct process wasn’t followed. For some they were confusing forms,” says Thompson.

State election and political party officials have been notified of the local auditor’s findings.

“They can challenge my decision. But, it would take a real convincing argument to change my mind,” he says.

The state Supreme Court recently ordered candidates and county election officials to agree on a procedure for identifying and counting absentee ballots.

The order also calls for all counting to be completed by Dec. 31.

Thompson says today he’ll be taking the ballots to a regional location in North Mankato. He says officials from 19 other counties also will be there and expects it to be a daylong event.

If any absentee rejections are challenged, Thompson says, arriving at a general consensus to allow the vote to be counted would be difficult.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to get both parties to agree. Ultimately, the courts may have to decide,” he adds.

Thompson says he’s also concerned that a voter’s privacy not be violated, since the ‘secrecy envelopes’ would have to be opened and examined by election officials.

“That goes against the principle that nobody needs to know how you voted,” adds Thompson.