Absentee balloting surges; deadline for early voting is 5 p.m. Monday
Washington County voters’ interest in absentee voting is near double what it was four years ago, prompting election officials to caution about long lines at one local absentee voting location.
As of Monday, 568,196 absentee ballots were accepted, according to data released by Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office.That includes 31,099 ballots in Washington County. Those numbers include mail-in and in-person absentee ballots.
“We expected a high turnout in absentee voting and that’s what we’ve seen,” Jennifer Wagenius, director of Property Records and Taxpayer Services for Washington County, said last week. “It’s pretty much double where we were in 2012.”
Since then, the state passed legislation enacting no-excuse absentee voting. The move meant that people no longer had to explain why they had to vote ahead of Election Day.
No-excuse absentee balloting in Minnesota was first used in the 2014 midterm election.
Absentee voting closes at 5 p.m. Monday. On Tuesday, voters only can cast ballots at their assigned precinct, which they can find at www.MNvotes.org.
With the election less than one week away, it’s advisable to submit an absentee vote in person at one of four locations in Washington County, Wagenius said. They are:
Cottage Grove Service Center, 13000 Ravine Parkway South, Cottage Grove
Government Center, 14949 62nd Street North, Stillwater
Headwaters Service Center, 19955 Forest Road North, Forest Lake
Woodbury Service Center, 2150 Radio Drive, Woodbury, MN 5512
However, officials cautioned that voters should expect a longer wait when submitting an absentee ballot at the Woodbury Service Center, where people waited two deep in line Friday afternoon.
The line had begun forming at 8 a.m, one voting official said.
Angela VandenHeuvel thought she could dash in and out while she was off work. After she managed to find a parking space, she waited a little over 20 minutes in line before casting her first absentee ballot. She took it in stride.
“I didn’t expect it to be so busy,” she said.“I thought I was being pro-active. “
She thinks absentee voting could increase voter turnout, since people now could choose which day to cast their ballot.
“Everyone is so busy these days,” she said.
The hours at all locations are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday. Additional hours for absentee balloting will be offered from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Applicants will have to establish their ID with a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number. Those who are not registered to vote can do so on the spot if they provide proof of residency. Once they have filled out the ballot they can insert it into a tabulator, where they can be sure it will be counted.
Questions about the general election, absentee voting, or voter registration may be directed to Washington County at 651-430-6175.