Inside Anoka County Government Center this week, election work is underway. Wednesday was the first day absentee ballots could be opened and prepared for counting. Anoka County has already received more than 65,000 absentee ballots. With more than a week until the election, this year's absentee levels are well above the approximately 36,000 total absentee ballots collected for the presidential election four years ago.
"Across Anoka County we've seen a tremendous number of voters who are deciding to vote early," said Paul Linnell, the election manager for Anoka County. "Given the current social distancing requirements, the fact that so many people are voting early and voting by mail will mean that those who do choose to vote at the polling locations on Election Day should be safe and so should the election judges working at the polls."
Anoka County has received about 95,000 absentee ballot requests so far, breaking any and all previous absentee records. The county hired more temporary staff and election judges to keep pace. The significant increase in absentee voting will cost more. Anoka County expects to recoup much of increase using federal funding from the CARES Act. Most days between now and the election, the team will be set up in the atrium of the Anoka County Government Center processing the absentee ballots. Even though the ballots are processed and inserted into the tabulating machines early, no one sees the results until polls close November 3rd.
Not all states allow absentee ballots to be opened and tabulated early. Linnell says Minnesota's rules will lead to less confusion on Election Day. "We should have a pretty full picture of the election results that we'll get posted to the Secretary of State's website once the polls close at 8 p.m."
It's a head start Anoka County is putting to full use to make voting as smooth and safe as possible.