Candidates encourage absentee voting in early primaryby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Absentee voting opens today in Minnesota's Aug. 10 primary election, and at least some candidates are trying to encourage it more than ever.
The early primary date, moved up from September, has created some uncertainty among election officials and campaigns, and many think holding an election at the peak of vacation season will diminish turnout.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said he expected a little more than one in 10 eligible voters to cast ballots on Aug. 10.
Every major-party endorsed candidate for governor faces a primary challenge this year, but the most competitive contest is on the DFL side. Candidates are working to ensure that their key voting blocks cast ballots on Aug 10.
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton and former state Rep. Matt Entenza are challenging Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher in the primary. Officials with all three campaigns say they're reminding their voters that they can vote absentee.
"Everybody that we identify as a supporter, that's one of the questions they get asked is whether or not they need to vote absentee," Entenza said.
Similarly, Kelliher's campaign website and mobile phone apps direct supporters on how to request an absentee ballot.
"It's really a person-by-person effort to go out and educate folks, especially those folks who say 'I'm going to be out of town, I'm going to be up at the lake,' and encouraging them to apply for that absentee ballot," she said.
Kelliher's campaign manager says she thinks there will be a slight increase in the number of people who vote absentee.
Another factor focusing attention on absentee voters is the state's most recent U.S. Senate election, a high turnout affair in which a few hundred absentee ballots played a crucial role.
"As Sen. Coleman and Sen. Franken's contest last time showed, every vote does count and is important," Dayton said. "Every vote that we can recruit from anyone ... we're certainly encouraging and instructing them on how they can go through the procedures on how they can request an absentee ballot and cast it properly."
Ramsey County Elections Director Joe Mansky says he hasn't seen an unusual number of requests by people who want to vote absentee but notes the primary election is still a month and a half away.
Mansky says all the wrangling over absentee ballots in the Senate recount may affect how some voters decide to cast ballots.
"People who normally might have voted absentee ballot may now be a little suspicious of the mail part of that and will choose to vote in person to make absolutely sure that their ballot gets counted," Mansky said.
The Senate recount did prompt changes in absentee balloting. The time to request and file an absentee ballot has been extended from 30 days to 45 days.
Absentee ballot boards are also required to review absentee ballots as they come in and contact a voter if the ballot contains procedural errors, such as no signature.
The secretary of state's office also redesigned the absentee envelope with the hopes of making it easier to vote absentee.
- Morning Edition, 06/25/2010, 8:25 a.m.