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Absentee and mail-in ballots offer social distancing option


July 10, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten the health of people locally and across the country, Carlton County acting auditor/treasurer Kathy Kortuem said both the county and the secretary of state are encouraging people to vote by using absentee ballots if they don’t already live somewhere using mail-in ballots. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weighed in last month, suggesting that election officials take steps to minimize crowds at voting locations, including by offering alternative voting methods.

Absentee voting for the Aug. 11 primary election is already underway. Kortuem said her office has received lots of absentee ballot applications.

“As we continue to receive applications, we will mail ballots within a couple days of application receipt,” Kortuem said. Residents also can vote at her office in the Carlton County Courthouse during regular opening hours. Masks are recommended.

She warned voters to not fill out multiple absentee ballot applications, explaining that various independent groups have been sending out applications. The state and the county are not sending these, but Kortuem said the applications they have seen include the same information as those found on the secretary of state’s website.

“Voters only need to send in one application, regardless of how many organizations send them additional applications,” she said, adding that the preferred way to register is online at

There are a couple of new absentee voting provisions for the primary elections, including:

1. Absentee and mail ballot envelopes do not need to be signed by a witness for this election. The voter must sign.

2. Absentee ballot envelopes that are postmarked by election day will be accepted for two days after the election. Only mailed ballots with a postmark on or before Aug. 11 will be accepted late, via U.S. mail or package delivery service. No hand-delivered ballots will be accepted after Election Day.

Anyone who is a registered voter and lives in a mail ballot precinct will automatically be mailed a ballot.

Got questions? Call the county auditor’s office at 218-384-9127 or go online to or

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has said that like everything else, live voting will be different this year because of the pandemic.

“They’re going to notice masks for election judges and made available for themselves as voters, they’re going to notice hand sanitizers, wipes and protocols for making the polling place clean,” Simon said. “The thing that they won’t see is that we’ve seen a predictable surge in request for absentee ballots and the numbers are really chart-topping.”

Simon reported earlier this summer that requests for mail-in ballots were running at more than 20 times the rates they were at this time during the 2018 and 2016 elections.


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