Only 40 voters cast in-person ballots at the Mary Ann Young Center in Blaine during the first four weeks of absentee voting. Most are mailing it in, rather than walking in.
“It’s clear that voters are responding to their available options given the current public health situation and that many voters are taking advantage of the opportunity to vote absentee by mail,” said Anoka County Elections Manager Paul Linnell.
So far nearly 24,000 absentee ballots by mail have been requested by Anoka County voters. That’s nine times more than the last primary election in 2018.
While voting officials are going out of their way to make sure in person polling places are safe, they say having fewer people vote in person will make it even safer for those who do.
“That means less crowding, less cues, less traffic so that fewer people are congregating into a confined space on election day,” said Linnell. “It makes it easier to keep distanced and makes it so election judges can continue to process voters in a timely fashion.”
It does put more of a burden on county officials to process all those mailed ballots. But the election office has added staff, and the legislature is allowing them to start processing ballots earlier.
“Starting two weeks prior we can begin opening those envelopes and getting ballots ready for counting so that gives us more time to work through those high volume of ballots that we anticipate that we’re going to see,” said Linnell.
Still, final election results could be delayed because ballots that arrive on the Wednesday and Thursday after the election must still be counted if they were mailed by primary election day. The final votes may not be tallied until Thursday night, two days after the primary.
There may also be a high number of mailed in votes for the general election this fall. Almost all of those who requested a mailed in ballot for the primary also requested one for the general election.