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Early voting activity picks up in the local elections office

Lead Summary
Lori Sorenson

With less than two weeks remaining until Nov. 8, the work pace is increasing for local election officials.
“It’s busy here but things are going well,” said Rock County Auditor-Treasurer Ashley Kurtz Monday.
She said her office issued more than 200 absentee ballots as of Monday afternoon, and mail ballot precincts received their ballots last week.
Of Rock County’s 5,600 registered voters, 2,500 vote by mail ballot because their precincts no longer host elections after electronic voting equipment became cost-prohibitive.
Voters in Luverne cast ballots in the Luverne High School gym, and the polling place in Hills is the American Legion. All other precincts vote by mail, or voters from any Rock County precinct may bring their mail ballots in person to the Rock County Courthouse.
Early voting started Sept. 23, and Kurtz had hoped to utilize the courthouse drop box to accept ballots. However, state-required camera equipment arrived too late to be installed before the Sept. 6 deadline, so voters cannot use that option.
“Ballots dropped in the drop box can’t be accepted,” she said. “We do notify these voters so the situation can be fixed.”
A prominent sign informs voters not to use the drop box for ballots; however, two ballots did get dropped there and Kurtz was able to notify those voters and rectify their ballots.
She said staff can open the exterior envelope to identify the voter, but they don’t open the inner envelope which contains the actual ballot and voting selections.
The same process can catch other ballot errors — such as failure to have a witness signature — so that voters are allowed another chance to have their voting selections counted.
“We have noticed an increase in the number of ballots that have come back without the witness portion completed,” Kurtz said.
“Due to Covid, witnesses were not required in 2020, but now they are. We do contact these voters and work with them to get everything corrected so a ballot can be accepted.”
But as the Nov. 8 election deadline nears, she said her staff will be increasingly busy, and it takes time to track down errors.
“It saves everyone time if they make sure they have a witness complete the bottom portion of their absentee or mail ballot envelope,” Kurtz said. “If they don’t have a witness, they can certainly come up here to the courthouse and we can serve as their witness.”
Be kind
As voting traffic picks up in her office, Kurtz said she and her staff are increasingly subjected to harassment from conspiracy theorists questioning her office’s election integrity.
“To be honest, it’s been brutal here as far as how staff has been treated by some voters in regard to the mail and absentee voting process, which is something we’ve never really dealt with in years past,” Kurtz said.
“The political atmosphere and allegations of fraud with ballots … If people were fully educated about the process, they’d know better, but they’re believing what they read online and they’re taking it out on staff and it’s taking an emotional toll.”
She said she’d like to be able to explain to each voter how the process works in order to show how the system’s checks and balances work to spot errors and potential fraud.
Ballot barcodes
Ballots are scanned one at a time into a voting machine that records information on a jump drive. At the close of the polls, the drive gets transferred to a secure computer that’s not connected to the internet. “It’s just another secure step in the process,” Kurtz said.
That computer then generates a jump drive that gets uploaded to the Minnesota Secretary of State Office where results are posted online at
“We literally account for every ballot – they have a barcode that gets scanned — from start to finish,” Kurtz said.
“If we scan a certain number at the start of the election, there can be no discrepancy at the end … That’s how I know we’re accurate here.”
The barcode system also allows voters to track their ballots once they’re cast early, absentee and by mail through  
“This website will show whether or not we’ve received the ballot back and/or if it has been accepted yet,” Kurtz said.
“We try to process everything as fast as we can, but sometimes it may take a day or so for it to be processed. If there are ever any questions, they can always call, too.”
She said they’re currently testing machines and will start processing ballots as soon as this week.
The Rock County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office can be reached at 507-283-5060.

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