The evening of Tuesday, Nov. 3 became a long night for Scott County candidates and residents waiting to find out who would fill open positions for the coming term.
Most precincts in Scott County, including races for city, school board, county and congressional positions, did not release results until after midnight.
County Auditor Cindy Geis said there are a couple of reasons the counting of votes took longer in 2020 than in years past.
Multiple ballot drop-off locations throughout the county allowed voters to remain spread out in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, both early voting and on Election Day.
“We got nailed (Tuesday) with drop-offs,” said Geis. “Like, nailed.”
Scott County election officials got about 1,500 ballots that came in from these drop-off sites that needed to be processed and approved by the Ballot Board Tuesday afternoon. Geis said it was almost 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3 by the time these ballots were ready to begin being opened and recorded by county staff.
In some counties, there was a cut-off day for dropping off absentee ballots, and voters who did not do so before Election Day had to instead vote in-person at the polls.
Scott County allowed absentee ballot drop-off through Election Day, which meant there was an “onslaught” coming in at the last minute, Geis said.
The county has two days post-election to process absentee ballots received by Election Day. Scott County officials chose to stay and process 100% of those ballots received in-house on Tuesday.
“Usually on Election Day we barely receive any absentee ballots beyond what comes in the mail, which is usually very light by Tuesday,” said Geis. “We’re usually standing around just waiting to close our absentee polls after they are 100% counted. Not (Tuesday). (Tuesday), we were still processing because of the drop-offs.”
In addition to the counting of more drop-off absentee ballots than usual, election staff across the county were seeing long lines, especially in “huge precincts” like Credit River, Geis said.
There were some other snags with in-person voting — social-distancing requirements made lines so long that in one instance, they trickled out into the street, making driving around the polling location hazardous.
Geis also said some voters used their own ink pens rather than felt-tip pens on voting scanners, which made it so that Scott County staff had to take time to wipe down the equipment.
Still, this year marked a record turnout for Scott County voters, Geis said.
Voter turnout in Scott County was 94%, well above the state average of 76%.
“This number is an anomaly and it is unheard of in our county,” said Geis.
Despite all of its moving parts, Geis said she is proud of how the cities helped administrate this year’s election, and she’s heard positive feedback from voters so far on the flexibility the multiple drop-off locations provided.
“I think our readers and our voters are getting out to vote and taking advantage of all the options that we had to be able to cast their ballot in whatever fashion they choose,” said Geis.
As of Wednesday morning, the county still has a little over 2,800 ballots outstanding. Geis said they’re assuming half of those people went to the polls in-person, so those ballots won’t be returned, but they always have in the hundreds that never return their ballots “for one reason or another.”
Absentee ballots that were postmarked on or before Election Day have a seven-day grace period to be received and counted. Those ballots that are received before next Tuesday will be counted and processed, and the Minnesota Secretary of State election results website will reflect those updates sometime next week.