Some counties tallying absentee ballots ahead of primary

I Voted sticker
A voter wore his "I voted" sticker as he left the polling place in St. Paul's Fifth Ward on Nov. 3, 2015.
Regina McCombs | MPR News 2015

Some absentee ballots are already being tallied ahead of Tuesday's statewide primary, though the results won't be reported until after the polls close.

A new law passed this year allows absentee voters who submit their ballots in person to place their ballots directly into electronic counting machines. Previously, the ballots were sealed inside envelopes that were counted at a later time.

The change is expected to speed up election night results "because those ballots are already fed into a ballot counter, that's not something we have to wait and do," said Ginny Gelms, Hennepin County elections manager.

Election officials also figure they'll save money.

"When we're using the envelopes, that's time and material costs that we don't have to incur if the voter puts their ballot directly into the ballot counters," Gelms said.

Part of the push to allow tabulators for absentee in-person voting is to make the process easier for voters. Electronic ballot counters immediately signal whether a ballot was properly filled out and accepted.

"So if [a voter] did make a mistake, they have the opportunity to have that ballot returned to them and to vote a new ballot and make sure that their vote gets counted the way that they intended [it] to," said Gelms.

All cities in Hennepin County are offering electronic tabulators in the lead up to the primary for in-person absentee voting. Several other metro area counties are also using the machines, as are a handful of outstate Minnesota counties. Voters should call their county election office to see if tabulators are available at a location near them.

Absentee in-person voting for Tuesday's statewide primary is available through August 8th.

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