Monday, November 19, 2018

The To-Do List of an Election Admin and Three Early Voting Facts

Equipment for elections is tested, organized, packed, and
ready to be delivered to polling locations prior to Election Day.
 A guest blog by Blaine City Clerk Cathy Sorensen

Hi there, my name is Cathy Sorensen, Blaine city clerk. I also serve on the LMC Improving Service Delivery Policy Committee and I’m the chair of the LMC Elections Task Force. After finalizing all the tasks involved in a busy election cycle I wanted to share a little about what is involved in administering an election and some of the behind-the-scenes tasks that most members of the public are not aware of.


From the to-do list of an election administrator:
•    Hire and train great election judges … and tactfully let some go!
•    Secure polling places.
•    Test election equipment for accuracy.
•    End-of-day accepting, sorting and filing of ballots & applications.
•    Opening and preparing absentee ballots for tabulation.
•    Pack election supplies: everything from pollpads, rosters, and ballots to pens and paper clips.
•    Tally write-in votes for school and other special districts that include Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and others that can’t be mentioned here.
•    Work all day Saturday before election day for absentee voting and packing supplies for the polling places! Some jurisdictions are open on additional weekends too.
•    Coordinate public works deliveries and pick up of equipment and materials for the polling locations.
•    Unpack supplies and regroup for the next election.

Three early voting facts
Three facts about early voting that residents (or even city officials!) may not know:
  • Early voting is available 46 DAYS before Election Day.
    • Having lots of extra visitors as early as September creates disruption and staffing challenges at city halls where balloting is conducted.
    • Interest in absentee voting increases each year, which will affect staffing and location needs. For example, more early voters may mean more early voting locations are needed in some communities, while fewer people voting on Election Day means fewer election judges needed in polling places on Election Day. This is the new norm!
  • In Minnesota, it’s all “absentee voting.”
    • Technically Minnesota doesn’t have “early voting,” it’s all “absentee voting”! The law allows people to put their absentee ballots in the tabulator in the seven days leading up to Election Day, but prior to that the ballots are placed in envelopes to be opened during those magic seven days. Voters need to fill out an application to vote absentee because voting rosters are only available on Election Day.
    • During those magic seven days we must still specifically offer voters the option to put their ballot in an envelope or put it in the machine.
    •  Bottom line: this process is very confusing to voters and not the same experience as voting on Election Day.
  • A law passed in 2016 established a presidential nomination primary.
    • With absentee voting beginning in December, this will make for a year-long election cycle. We anticipate having difficulty finding election judges for this primary because many election judges are snowbirds who leave for the winter. 
    • Judges are just one reason why we need to look at better ways to administer the presidential primary.
Public works staff help deliver equipment and materials
to the polls.
Are changes ahead?
Each year, city officials from across the state serve on the LMC Elections Task Force through LMC to recommend improvements to the system. To see our elections policies for 2019, including a proposal to better administer the presidential primary, check out the draft 2019 City Policies document here.

And last but not least, thank you, colleagues across the state, who help make elections happen!

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