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Take ballots to drop box or vote in-person

Officials warn it is too late to mail back ballots


By Albert Lea Tribune and The Associated Press


Minnesota’s secretary of state said Thursday it’s too late for voters to mail back their absentee ballots if they want to make sure their votes count, after an appeals court ruling indicated that mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day are at risk of being invalidated.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Minnesota absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be separated from other ballots in case they are later invalidated by a final court order. The ruling doesn’t block Minnesota’s seven-day extension for counting absentee ballots outright, but puts the grace period in danger.

“Voters should no longer place their absentee ballots in the mail,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said. “It is too late for you, practically speaking, to get it back. Don’t risk it.”

The ruling doesn’t impact ballots received by the time polls close on Election Day, but sets the stage for post-election litigation. The case was sent back to a lower court for more proceedings.

“What the court left unsettled was the question of whether, once and for all and finally, ballots will or won’t be counted if received after Tuesday, Nov. 3,” Simon said. “The decision, to be candid, is not a model of clarity and it leaves open a lot of unanswered questions.”

“The consequences of this order are not lost on us. We acknowledge and understand the concerns over voter confusion, election administration issues, and public confidence in the election,” the majority wrote. But they said those problems were preferable to a post-election scenario where invalidated and valid votes are mixed.

“Better to put those voters on notice now while they still have at least some time to adjust their plans and cast their votes in an unquestionably lawful way,” the majority wrote.

Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer Pat Martinson said absentee ballots need to be turned into her office by 3 p.m. Tuesday, and mail ballots have to be turned in by 8 p.m.

“Individuals need to drop those ballots off,” Martinson said. “Don’t put them in the mail at this point.”

She said there will not be any absentee voting on Election Day for voters in all six Albert Lea wards and the townships of Freeman, Hayward, Newry and Riceland. People in those jurisdictions will need to go to their polling locations that day and vote.

Voters in the mail ballot precincts can drop off their ballots through the drop box in the law enforcement entrance of the Freeborn County courthouse or in the Auditor-Treasurer’s Office. People who are not registered to vote in the mail ballot precincts should also come to the Auditor-Treasurer’s Office to register and vote there.

Martinson said she was not surprised with the Minnesota ruling, as there is similar litigation happening all over the country.

The Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office can be reached at 377-5121.


Freeborn County Election Day polling locations

• Albert Lea Ward 1, precincts 1 and 2: Edgewater Pavilion, 1940 Edgewater Drive, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Albert Lea Ward 2: First Lutheran Church, 301 W. Clark St., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Albert Lea Ward 3: United Methodist Church, 702 U.S. Highway 69, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Albert Lea Ward 4: Grace Lutheran Church, 918 Garfield Ave., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Albert Lea Ward 5: Albert Lea City Hall, 221 E. Clark St., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Albert Lea Ward 6: Assembly of God Church, 1540 S. Shore Drive, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Freeman Township: Freeman Town Hall, 13517 760th Ave., Glenville, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Hayward Township: Hayward Town Hall, 201 Main St., Hayward, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Newry Township: Newry Town Hall, 29048 890th Ave., Austin, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Riceland Township: Riceland/Hollandale Government Center, 110 W. Park Ave., Hollandale, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

* Registered voters in Albert Lea Township, Alden Township, Bancroft Township, Bath Township, Carlston Township, Freeborn Township, Geneva Township, Hartland Township, London Township, Manchester Township, Mansfield Township, Moscow Township, Nunda Township, Oakland Township, Pickerel Lake Township and Shell Rock Township, along with the cities of Alden, Clarks Grove, Conger, Emmons, Freeborn, Geneva, Glenville, Hartland, Hayward, Hollandale, Manchester, Myrtle and Twin Lakes should have received mail ballots  and can drop them off in the drop box right inside the law enforcement entrance to the courthouse or at the county Auditor-Treasurer’s Office. They can vote in-person at the Auditor-Treasurer’s Office, 411 S. Broadway, on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.