During the August primary election, county officials say they saw more mail-in ballots than perhaps ever before. And it didn’t come without a few kinks, said Kendra Olson, Carver County elections supervisor.
In total, Olson said 78 ballots weren’t received on-time, coming in between Aug. 14 and 27. In a typical election year, that number is around 20.
“It’s never been this many,” she said. “We’ve never had this many coming back.”
Olson points to a few things as to why mail-ins were higher this year. Besides the obvious COVID-19 pandemic encouraging folks to stay home, the deadline was slightly extended.
Never before could votes be counted after election day. Ballots were counted as long as they were postmarked by the Aug. 11 election day, and received by Aug. 13.
“It might have prompted more people to try (mailing in),” Olson said.
Other votes were postmarked by election day, but didn’t arrive until much later. Olson cited overseas absentee ballots for those. Around one vote has come in each day as of last week, Olson said.
Another handful of votes weren’t mailed out until a week or two after the primary, so those weren’t counted.
Nicole Hill, communications specialist with the USPS, said the USPS is only aware of votes that weren’t counted to due sender error.
“Customers who opt to vote through the U.S. mail must understand their local jurisdiction’s requirements for timely submission of absentee ballots, including postmarking requirements,” Hill said.
TRY, TRY AGAIN
When ballots are rejected for whatever reason, like not signing or not having an I.D., senders are notified.
If there’s plenty of time to send their ballots again, elections staff will reach out with clearer instructions. Olson said sometimes people repeatedly sent in incomplete ballots, up to three or four times.
Then once election day creeps up, mail-in options become limited.
If a ballot is rejected five to seven days before the election, Olson said law requires officials to notify them, send a replacement ballot, and send information on where to vote in-person, if able.
If mail-in votes aren’t sent out on time, those rejected balloters will be notified too. Olson said that’s the least-wanted option, but it does make voters aware.
It’s a process Olson calls “proactive and intentional,” but that general election voters have less of a chance of error of they send votes in early.
In the future, Hill said the USPS is optimistic about mail-in elections, particularly in November.
“We continue to work with Carver County, the Secretary of State and all Minnesota Boards of Election and look forward to a successful general election,” she said.