Some townships going to mail ballots
Changes are occurring in the way less populated areas of the state cast their votes.
According to a law passed in 2008 in Minnesota, all non-metropolitan townships and cities with less than 400 registered voters located outside of the Minneapolis/St. Paul seven-county metropolitan area can choose to hold elections by mail.
Minnesota is one of five states which permit certain jurisdictions or portions of a jurisdiction to be designated as eligible for all-mail voting based on population. The other four states are Idaho, Nevada, New Jersey and New Mexico.
“Prescott, Lura, Pilot Grove and Rome Townships have all filed the necessary paperwork,” Faribault County chief deputy auditor Jessica Blair explained. “Clark and Verona Townships have informed us they will have the necessary paperwork in by the Dec. 4 deadline.”
Prescott Township has already held an election by mail, according to Blair.
“It went pretty well,” Blair said . “One concern was the voter’s signatures were visible on the returned envelope, but that has now been changed so it (the signature) is concealed.”
Originally, it was the sparsely populated regions of northern Minnesota which took advantage of this law, but now over 25 percent of the townships in Faribault County are making the change to vote by mail.
Once a township or municipality makes the change to vote my mail, all elections will be conducted in that manner unless the township or municipality passes a resolution to discontinue voting by mail.
Most hold state primary and general elections by mail, and hold local elections at a polling place, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State website.
So how does voting by mail work?
Election officials send ballots to all registered voters using non-forwardable mail. They send ballots between 46 days to 14 days before the election. You must be registered to vote at your current address to receive a ballot.
All mail ballots require the signature of a witness on the signature envelope. Follow the instructions that are included with your ballot.
If you move and if you update your voter registration to your new address at least 21 days before the election, election officials will automatically send you a ballot by mail.
Otherwise, you will need to apply to have a ballot mailed to your new address. Election officials will send you a registration application with your ballot materials.
Once your ballot is filled out, you can mail it in or drop it off at your polling place. In Faribault County, if your township is voting by mail, your polling place is the Faribault County auditor’s office.
The National Conference of State Legislatures list possible advantages with voting by mail. One of the positive items is the convenience. Citizens are able to vote at home and take all the time they need to study the issues. There are also some reports which indicate voter turnout is higher when voting by mail.
Some possible disadvantages are the loss of tradition. The civic experience of voting with neighbors at a local school or polling place no longer exists.
There are also some concerns about security and coercion by family members which might occur.
When it comes to financial considerations, it can be a mixed bag. Jurisdictions may save money because they no longer need to staff polling places with election judges. On the other hand, all-mail elections can greatly increase printing costs for an election. Each entity would need to do the calculations for their situation.
For more information on voting by mail, you can visit the website for the Minnesota Secretary of State, www.sos.state.mn.us.