Early voting is a hit in Douglas County.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 27, the Douglas County Auditor’s Office has accepted 10,002 absentee ballots – nearly triple the number of ballots, 3,905, that were cast during the last presidential election in 2016, according to Vicki Doehling, elections administrator.

Nearly 40% of the county’s 26,437 registered voters have already voted. And with four days before the election, more early votes will be streaming in.

The process is running smoothly, Doehling said.

“Absentee voting has been going very well so far,” she said. “As expected, requests for ballots to be mailed out have leveled off and in-person absentee voting is on the rise during this last week prior to the election.”

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A total of 2,807 early ballots have been received from the five city wards in Alexandria.

The next biggest total of early votes, 2,041, came from voters in LaGrand Township, followed by 1,173 from Alexandria Township.

Those two townships are among 10 precincts that decided to offer mail-in voting only this election as a precaution against COVID-19. The other precincts with mail-in voting only include the townships of Belle River, Brandon, Hudson, Ida, Lund, Moe, Spruce Hill and the city of Millerville.

Voters speak out on early voting

The newspaper asked Facebook readers why they voted early.

Many preferred the convenience and wanted to help the election process along.

“Voted early for both the primary and main election,” said Cheryl Strand. “It was encouraged and it was easy. Verified that my ballot would be counted both times. Hope that makes it easier for those working the polls and those who vote on election day!”

“Voted about two weeks ago, happily,” said Wes Beal. “A lot more convenient than racing to the polls before work.”

“Voted today at the Douglas County Courthouse so don't have to wait in line on election day!” said Shawn Nelson. “Only three others in front of me at the courthouse! Voting early is the way to go!”

“Way easier to go on my own time to the courthouse,” said Julie O’Brien. “Tried to get my ballot online, but the apostrophe caused some errors, so they wouldn't send it.”

Some early voters said they were thinking of others.

“I voted early out of consideration for poll workers,” said Carol Wenner. “Glad I did now that COVID numbers are increasing.”

“Sent my mail-in ballot two weeks ago, said Brenda Johnson Moe. “Verified received. Glad I can do my part to keep the people who usually work for the elections in my township safe!”

Some voted early as a precautionary measure.

“Voted two weeks ago and hand-carried the ballot to the auditor’s office to avoid missing or lost ballots and glut overload on Nov. 3,” said Rosanne Westrom.

Some voters didn’t want to vote early so they could keep their options open.

“I'll vote on the 3rd,” said Matthew Forsberg. “Right now a trending search on Google is, can I change my vote? What if I mail in two weeks ago and the person I voted for says something or completely changed their stance?”

Some said they didn’t have a choice but to vote by mail.

“Dropped my ballot off yesterday because Ida Township won't let us vote in person,” said Denise Pihaly Thorson Hanson. “Makes no sense to me at all and I'm not happy about it.”

Tracking your ballot

Doehling said voters can track the status of their absentee ballot at www.mnvotes.org and will find it helpful if they search by the same ID information that was used to apply for their ballot or the ID that is linked to their voter record.

If voters are unsure or can’t find their ballot by using their driver’s license number, she said to try searching again using the last four digits of their Social Security Number.

Voting continues

In-person early voting will continue until 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2 at the Douglas County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office located at 305 8th Ave. W, Alexandria.

Extended voting hours include Saturday, Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Acceptable absentee/mail ballots will be counted if received or postmarked on or before election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. Follow the instructions that were included with your absentee or mail ballot that indicates what time of day hand delivered ballots must be returned on election day.

Other advice

Doehling passed along another reminder to early voters: Anyone who received a ballot prior to election day can NOT return it to the polling place on election day. All voted absentee and mail ballots MUST be returned to the Douglas County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office on or before Election Day.

Voters should refer to the instructions that were included with their ballot as to what time of day their ballot must be returned.

Acceptable ballots postmarked on or before election day will be counted within the seven days immediately following the election, although that timeframe may be tightened up, pending a decision by a federal court.