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Future of mail ballot voting discussed at March 27 meeting

Lori Sorenson

Rock County Commissioners will host an informational meeting Monday night with city and township clerks to discuss the possibility of returning to in-person voting in precincts that have been using mail ballots.
The meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 27, in the basement of the Rock County Library.
County election official Ashley Kurtz encourages at least one representative from each city and township to attend the meeting.
It will address possible polling place options, election judge recruitment and machine costs.
“Any changes will obviously have a great impact on the townships and cities,” Kurtz said.
She said potential changes in local election practices were prompted by “numerous challenges” presented by people who called into question the integrity of mail elections.
“I know that conducting elections by mail was the answer to solve the issue of election judge shortage and machine costs years ago,” Kurtz wrote in her letter.
“And for years we’ve done this process and there have been zero issues.”
However, during the 2022 elections, she said she and her staff were harassed and intimidated by some members of the public who questioned their practices.
“My staff was in tears about the way they were treated,” Kurtz told the County Board about the 2022 election. “We have to do something.”
While Kurtz didn’t detail specific conversations, she said callers frequently didn’t identify themselves and became belligerent when office staff explained the voting and canvassing processes.
They alleged that the mail ballot process is fraudulent with ballots mailed to deceased residents or to people not registered in the county.
“That’s really not the case,” Kurtz said last fall. “We can explain our process from start to finish, but they still walk away.”
In continuing the conversation, she said she’s open to hearing from elected officials from other parts of the county.
“Rock County has always followed all statutes and procedures set forth by the Minnesota Secretary of State in regard to the handling of mail ballots,” Kurtz said in her March 13 letter.
“However, in 2022 our office fielded numerous complaints about such procedures.”
She said the County Board had election concerns brought to the county board meetings, but only one person (Pam Dooyema) was willing to voice a concern at a public meeting.
Kurtz said she hopes for a productive discussion among area elections officials at Monday’s meeting.

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