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Douglas County 'very well-prepared' for Election Day, secretary of state says

Douglas County is an example that can show people that "Our elections are fundamentally fair, accurate, honest and secure," Steve Simon said.

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Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon visited Douglas County on Thursday, Sept. 22, to discuss the upcoming vote with local election officials.
Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA — Douglas County is in a good position going into the upcoming election, according to Secretary of State Steve Simon.

Simon is in the process of visiting each county in the state to see if there are any concerns as the state rolls toward Election Day, Nov. 8. He stopped at the Douglas County Auditor's Office on Thursday, Sept. 22.

"I have to say, they are very well-prepared," Simon said of Douglas County. "They're experienced, they're seasoned, they're seeing ahead to what some of the possible challenges could be. I think they're really ahead of the game, which is good and reassuring."

Douglas County is an example that can show people that "Our elections are fundamentally fair, accurate, honest and secure," Simon said.

"They do such a good job, and it's important that people understand what the various divisions' responsibilities are," Simon said. "Our office doesn't count a single ballot ever. We don't touch any ballots. That all happens at the local level, and it's really the counties and the cities that do the frontline election work, and they do it so well, in such a non-political and fair way. And that's our Minnesota system. That's why it works so well.

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"We're number-one in the country in voting. We have been for the last three elections in a row, and part of that is, people have confidence that it's an honest system. This county is an example of that — very conscientious, thorough, detail-oriented, fair people running the system," he said.

Simon said Douglas County has taken to heart some of the lessons of 2020, which he called "an extreme stress test that they and all of us passed."

"I like the fact that they're learning from 2020 and all those challenges, but really, thinking ahead. We've even started talking about 2024, so that tells you the scope of their preparedness," he said.

Some of the challenges that some counties have mentioned regarding the election involve absentee balloting.

Simon said, "2020 was a high-water mark, given COVID. A lot of people wanted to vote from home, or vote absentee, and not take the risk of going to a crowded polling place. The question is, what to anticipate. I get asked this question a lot. How high is the level of absentee balloting? How do you plan and prepare to staff absentee balloting when it's not quite clear at what level you'll have absentee balloting?"

Another challenge is just answering citizens' questions about the electoral process.

"Obviously, since the 2020 election there have been allegations and sometimes disinformation surrounding the election system," Simon said. "People read something in their Facebook feed or hear some political figure say something, and that causes them to have a concern. They're spending time, as are we in our office … to address those concerns, to expose people to the system as it is, not how it's sometimes been falsely portrayed in social media.

"So the more people come on in and take a look at what's going on, the more they leave with confidence," he said.

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As early voting began on Friday, Sept. 23, this is a good time to visit the counties, Simon said.

"We're partners, we're teammates, we have to have each others' backs, to make sure there's anything they need from our office, to get a little bit of understanding of what they're hearing from citizens, do they have any worries, concerns, either logistic or otherwise," he said.

Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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