Ritchie proposes new design for absentee ballots

Minnesota's top election official believes redesigned absentee ballot envelopes and instructions will help reduce voter error in Minnesota elections.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie unveiled the proposed design changes on Friday. They could be approved by March 2010 through the state's rules process, which includes a public comment period.

The 2008 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota raised questions about the state's absentee ballot system, since many absentee ballots were thrown out because voters didn't follow instructions.

Democrat Al Franken ended up beating Republican Norm Coleman by a couple hundred votes, but many more absentee votes couldn't be counted because the ballots were rejected.

Ritchie said the changes to the ballot instructions and envelopes include using clear language and a clearer format. There are also redundant instructions on the envelopes to remind voters of requirements.

One reason some ballots in the 2008 election were rejected was because the voter forgot to sign the ballot materials. The redesigned instructions and envelope include visual cues directing voters where to sign.

Ritchie said the redesigned instructions and envelopes came about after he sought input from voters, election officials and experts. He held more than 35 meetings across the state to discuss ways to improve the state elections system.

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