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Olmsted County is celebrating National County Government Month (NCGM) in April. We will share how we are "Connecting the Unconnected," demonstrating how counties deliver people-centered services and connect communities.
One example is by administering fair and accurate elections.
Administering fair and accurate elections is an important way that Olmsted County helps connect the unconnected in our communities. Voters can participate in our democracy with the support of the County through election day voting as well as curbside voting throughout the absentee voting period, no-excuse absentee voting 45 days prior to an election, and direct balloting absentee voting 7 days before the election.
Minnesota is one of only a few states in which every ballot is counted whether the ballot is cast on election day or during the absentee voting period. Between 2014 and 2018, Olmsted County experienced more than 200% growth in absentee voting, the largest increase in Minnesota, and one in four votes was cast using an absentee ballot in Olmsted County last year. Olmsted County is making changes for 2020 that will improve the process and experience for all types of voters. An important goal is that every voter will be able to vote in 30 minutes or less even at peak voting times.
In addition, the County advocates for important changes to elections, such as current efforts to improve assistive voting technology (AVT) for voters of all physical abilities in Olmsted County and across the state. To assist voters who have difficulty with mobility at the poll, the County not only provides the mandated option of curbside voting but actively encourages people to call from curbside if they need support and provides ample staff to ensure an accessible and positive experience for these voters.
Olmsted County also participates in a statewide effort known as "Voting while Homeless" to get out the vote among those who do not have a permanent address. "These voters can register to vote using the address where they sleep and with someone to vouch for them, even if that address is not a physical shelter" according to Elections Manager, Heather Bestler. The initiative works with shelters and other community-based organizations to help people understand and exercise their right to vote.
Olmsted County works diligently to ensure that every vote counts and is proud to be connecting the unconnected.