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Douglas County auditor/treasurer answers 'Top 10' election questions

Did you know there are three precincts conducting elections by mail ballot only? They include Hudson and Moe Townships and the City of Millerville.

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DOUGLAS COUNTY — With the 2022 election about a month away, the Echo Press contacted Vicki Doehling, Douglas County auditor/treasurer, who is also the chief election administrator, to answer the Top 10 election questions local voters may be asking.

Here are the questions and Doehling's answers:

Q: Where do I vote? (By absentee ballot or on election day.)
A: Absentee voting is available through the Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Office located in the lower level of the Douglas County Administration Building, 821 Cedar St., Alexandria, MN 56308 or by mail after first submitting a valid absentee ballot application.
If you are unsure where you vote on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022), you first must determine which voting precinct you reside in. This is especially important this year as many areas have been impacted by redistricting of voting district boundary lines. The simplest way to find your correct precinct polling place location is online at www.mnvotes.org or by referring to the redistricting postcard that was mailed out in July 2022 to all registered voters in Douglas County. If you still need help finding your correct polling place location, you may contact the Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer office at 320-762-3077 or by emailing elections@co.douglas.mn.us.
If you are not yet registered to vote, or want to verify your voter registration status, you may do so at www.mnvotes.org. The deadline to pre-register is Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Q: How can I get an absentee ballot?
A: If you need to vote by absentee ballot, you first must apply for an absentee ballot through the county auditor/treasurer office. Please allow ample time (at least 10 days) for submitting your application, receiving your ballot and returning your voted ballot to the county auditor. There are a couple ways you can obtain an Absentee Ballot Application — either online at www.mnvotes.org or thru the Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer’s office located in the lower level of the Douglas County Administration Building, 821 Cedar St., Alexandria, MN 56308. Normal business hours are 8 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Extended absentee voting hours will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29 and Nov. 5 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The office will remain open until 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7.

Q: What is the deadline for returning my voted absentee/mail ballot?
A: All voted absentee ballots must be received by the Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Office no later than 3 p.m. on Election Day. All voted mail ballots from our three mail ballot precincts – Hudson Township, City of Millerville and Moe Township – must be received by the Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Office no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters cannot return their voted absentee ballot to their polling place.

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Vicki Doehling

Q: Can I pick up an absentee ballot for anyone else?
A: Absentee ballots can only be issued to the voter directly, either in-person or by U.S. Postal Service. The exception is within seven days prior to election day, when an absentee voter (that meets one of the criteria below) may designate an agent to pick up a ballot from the county auditor on their behalf. The agent must have a pre-existing relationship with the voter. The voter must FIRST complete an Absentee Ballot Application as well as a Request for Agent Delivery of Absentee Ballot designation form. Both forms can be obtained from the county auditor’s office or online at www.mnvotes.org. This seven-day exception period for agent delivery only applies to voters who would have difficulty getting to the polls because:
1) of incapacitating health reasons,
2) of disability,
3) is a patient of a healthcare facility,
4) is a resident of a facility providing assisted living services,
5) is a participant in a residential program for adults, or
6) is a resident of a shelter for battered women.

Q: Can I bring back a voted absentee ballot for anyone else?
A: An absentee voter may ask someone to return their properly sealed/signed/voted absentee ballot envelope to the Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Office. The "agent" must be at least 18 years of age and may only return ballots for up to THREE voters per election. A ballot brought back by an agent must be submitted by 3 p.m. on election day. An agent may not return an absentee ballot to election judges in a polling place. Agent return involves two steps: 1) Inspecting the properly sealed Signature Envelope and 2) Completing the Agent Return Record (requiring the agent to provide valid ID).

Q: Are there any voting locations that are only doing mail-in ballots?
A: Douglas County currently has three precincts that conduct their state/county elections by mail ballot only – Hudson Township, City of Millerville and Moe Township.

Q: How secure is the voting process in Douglas County?
A: There are a number of safeguards in place to protect the integrity of our elections and safeguarding the security of our election equipment. For instance, two or more staff members of the Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Office pre-test all voting equipment and electronic poll books. Ballot tabulators throughout Minnesota are also tested after each statewide election by randomly drawing a select number of precincts (as determined by state statute based on the number of registered voters in that county) for which the voted ballots from the general election for those randomly selected precincts are hand-counted to verify the voting equipment tabulated the ballots properly. Voting equipment deployed to the polling places in Douglas County are NOT connected to the internet on election day. In fact, ballot tabulators in Douglas County are never connected to the internet. All processing of voters through the e-Roster on election day is performed manually. Election night returns are also delivered manually to the county auditor/treasurer by two or more election judges from each precinct.

Q: Are there any ballot questions voters need to know about?
A: Some local municipalities and/or school districts will have a ballot question on their local portion of the ballot. Voters can review their Sample Ballot on www.mnvotes.org.

Q: Could someone do an absentee vote and then also vote on election day?
A: There are safeguards in place when issuing absentee ballots. Staff first verify the absentee voter has not already submitted a voted ballot in the same election through the use of the statewide voter registration system. The same can be said for the polling place on election day. Voters that already returned a voted absentee ballot to the county auditor are noted in the electronic roster and are not allowed to vote again in the polling place. The staff in the auditor/treasurer office do not tabulate a voted absentee ballot until they know the voter’s record on precinct roster has been updated and that the voter has not already voted in-person at the polling place.

Q: What happens if someone wants to change their mind after mailing in their ballot?
A: A voter can spoil their voted absentee ballot and request a new one, so long as their original absentee ballot has not already been processed through the ballot tabulator. In Minnesota, counties may begin processing absentee ballots after the close of business on the seventh day before the election.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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