Mark Ritchie unveils new online ‘peace of mind’ tool for absentee ballots

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie unveiled an online “Absentee Ballot Lookup” service this morning.

With absentee voting beginning today, a voter can now go to a secure website at mnvotes.org

There, at an Absentee Ballot Status link, the voter can learn if his or her absentee application has been received andif a ballot has been received and counted or rejected. In the latter case, a voter can learn if her replacement ballot has been re-sent. It is akin to the package tracking that the U.S. Postal Service or overnight parcel companies provide to their customers, Ritchie said. 

(Note: If you’re not an absentee ballot voter and you go to this site, you won’t be able to log in.That includes political parties that want to track who is voting absentee.)

Ritchie called the online service a “peace of mind” tool. It’s an online service that is now required by new federal law for military voters, but Ritchie’s office decided to make it available for all absentee voters.

At a news conference today, Ritchie predicted that “more than 150,000” Minnesotans will vote by absentee ballot, or about a 10 percent increase from the 2006 gubernatorial election. A turnout of about 2 million voters is expected.

For the August primary, election officials predicted about 20,000 absentee ballots would be cast; in the end, about 31,000 absentee ballots were cast, Ritchie said. 

Why the increase?

Among some theories:

• Minnesotans, seeing early voting and electronic voting efforts nationally, are simply engaging in this somewhat alternative form of voting via absentee ballots.

• Employment factors — with long commutes — can affect voters’ ability to be in their precincts on Election Day.

• An aging population is having more difficulty getting to polling places.

• Political parties and campaigns — such as Barack Obama’s in 2008 — are encouraging supporters to vote early and, perhaps, volunteer on Election Day.

By the way, for those of you in search of electoral process watching, the Minneapolis Absentee Ballot Board might actually begin meeting as early as this Monday to begin reviewing ballots, assuming any are received by then, said city interim elections director Ginny Gelms. Technically, the board can meet any time between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. any business day, as needed, Gelm said. Here’s the public notice confirming that, besides Ritchie’s online initiative, the absentee ballot review process performed by real live human beings is about to begin.

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