Olmsted County Commissioners review elections procedures

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(ABC 6 News) – The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners heard a presentation on election procedures in their meeting Tuesday morning. The county elections team created the presentation to help the public better understand the ins and outs of elections ahead of the general election in November.

The Board questioned the elections team thoroughly in their meeting. They asked about state laws and best practices that elections workers follow to ensure accuracy and transparency.

“We take it very seriously out there. We enjoy what we do. Thank you for your support,” said Olmsted County Elections Manager Luke Turner to the board.

Turner went into detail about how the county counts and stores ballots during election season. One topic that interested the Commissioners was the ballot board.

The ballot board is made up of eight election judges from around the county: four Democrats and four Republicans. Their role is to verify or reject absentee ballots. They look over each ballot by hand.

Two ballot board members must sign off on each absentee ballot for it to be counted. As a general rule, no one is allowed to be alone with completed ballots.

“There are always two people with a ballot. It’s never alone with one staff member,” Turner said.

Completed ballots are kept in a secure room for 22 months after each election in case of an investigation. No one can enter that secure room alone.

In the meeting, the elections team also went over how election judges are trained, how voter registration is checked over, and how ballot machines work. Turner emphasized that each ballot machine is tested with thousands of ballots before each election. Test results have to be 100 percent accurate and there can be no margin of error. Every ballot must be counted correctly during the testing, according to Turner.

The County Board of Commissioners says they have seen more people coming to meetings with election questions ahead of the November general election.

“We have full time staff. This is their career. We’ll do fine at the November election. We won’t have any issues, I’m confident of that,” said Commissioner Mark Thein.

At the start of the meeting, a so-called “election integrity group” told the board they had concerns and questions about how the county runs its elections. The group has filed 6 complaints with the county attorney’s office about last month’s primary.

This group did not, however, actually stay and listen in on the county’s election presentation.

Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem said briefly in the meeting that his office is looking into the complaints and, if there are any valid claims, they will be forwarded to law enforcement.