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Early election season Polls are open for absentee primary vote

Absentee voting started Friday for the Aug. 10 primary election.

Becker County received its ballots Thursday and had them "all sorted out and ready to go this morning," Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen said Friday morning.

Only one vender prints ballots, so they sometimes arrive just in time for deadline, he said.

There are five candidates each in Becker County commissioner districts 2 and 4, and the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election in November.

Five men have filed for the District 4 seat on the County Board: Brad Grant, Donald Skarie, Bob Spilman, Richard A. Grossman and incumbent John Bellefeuille.

Five people have filed for the District 2 seat -- Cyndi Anderson, John C. Okeson, incumbent Harry Salminen, William "Gerry" Anderson and Ben E. Farner.

(Detroit Lakes Newspapers will be running candidate profiles in July).

There are 11 candidates in the Frazee-Vergas School Board race, and the top eight will vie for four seats on the board.

The Frazee-Vergas school board candidates are: Richard Ziegler, Don Thorp, Chris Wacker, Matt Bauer, James R. Nelson, Carey Alger, Kevin Litzau, Rick Dekarski, Mary Lepisto, Kenny Fett and Brenda Como.

The seats are currently held by Nancy Dashner, Dwight Cook, Ziegler and Thorp, who was appointed to fill a seat vacated by Kathryn Kallis.

The Frazee-Vergas School Board election is being handled by the county auditor-treasurer's office and the same absentee balloting rules apply for that race as any others that will ultimately be on the November ballot, Tangen said.

In the crowded Frazee-Vergas School Board primary, voters can choose up to four candidates, one for each open seat, but can also vote for just one, two or three candidates in the race, Tangen said.

There are no write-in votes allowed in primary elections.

Under Minnesota's new primary election schedule, the state moved the primary up to Aug. 10, about a month earlier than the traditional September primary.

Voters can cast absentee ballots if they will be away from home on primary day, have an illness or disability, serve as an election judge in another precinct or have a religious reason for voting early.

Mail-in ballots can be downloaded from the Secretary of State's website. (There is a link on Becker County's website.) Absentee voters can also vote in person at the county auditor-treasurer's office.

A new law updated the ballot materials to fix problems that emerged in the 2008 U.S. Senate recount and court contest.

Absentee voting runs through Monday, Aug. 9. The courthouse will be open until 5 p.m. that day for voting.

It will also be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Saturday before the election.

In the past, absentee voters have been notified by the county if there is a problem with their ballot that will keep it from being counted.

That's why it's best not to wait until the last minute to cast an absentee ballot, Tangen said.

Contrary to the impression left by the heated Franken-Coleman Senate recount battle, "we had a svery low rejection rate in Becker County last election," Tangen said. "In the event a ballot will be rejected, we contact people so they can come in and correct those."

But it has to be done prior to election day.

Counties that don't do that see much higher rates of rejected absentee ballots, he said.

In the past, the county absentee ballot board has sent the ballots back to voters' home precincts, so local election judges could count them and make sure nobody votes absentee and in person.

This time around, due to changes in state law, the county will handle absentee ballots from start to finish. That will slow the count on election night, since absentee ballots will have to be matched with precinct registration lists to make sure people don't vote twice.