County Election Processes Ensure Security and Accuracy | New

Morrison County Commissioners posed several questions to Auditor/Treasurer Chelsey Robinson when she briefed them on the county’s election processes on May 17.

On Tuesday, she – along with election supervisor Joyce Kahl – returned to the board to give them some of the answers they had that day.

“It’s obviously something that’s had a lot of interest from a lot of people in the county,” council chairman Greg Blaine said.

The first question Robinson answered was whether open precincts that switched to mail-in ballots in 2020 due to COVID-19 reverted to having open polls this year. She said seven of the eight precincts are returning to in-person voting. These include Buh Township, Cushing Township, Darling Township, Green Prairie Township, Pulaski Township, Ripley Township, and the City of Upsala.

Pierz Township is the only one of these neighborhoods that has chosen to remain post-only.

In total, the county has 21 mail-in voting precincts and 28 open polling places, including the office of the Auditor/Treasurer. The latter accepts all mail-in ballots and houses the mail-in voting precincts.

“The only place in Morrison County to drop off mail or mail-in ballots is the Auditor/Treasurer’s office,” Robinson said. “Morrison County does not have ballot boxes. We haven’t done it in the past and we don’t do it now.

Blaine said that since the county has aimed to make things convenient for residents in the past, there is a box outside the Morrison County Government Center in the south parking lot where residents can drop off cash payments. taxes, papers for social services and more. He asked if there had ever been any problems with residents thinking it was also a ballot drop box.

Robinson said there may be “signage everywhere” informing residents that this is not a ballot drop off location. However, since it is not certified, any voter who places a ballot in this box does so at their own risk.

“In the back parking lot, it would be under camera surveillance,” she said. “If this were to happen, it would be investigated.”

She added that if someone cannot make it to the Auditor/Treasurer’s office but wants to hand in their absentee or absentee ballot, they can call the office to make arrangements.

The council also asked at the previous meeting if they could conduct a review of the county’s election equipment. Robinson said his office will hold an open house from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, June 27, in the boardroom of the Government Center. Everyone is welcome to come and test the new Omni-Ballot assisted voting devices.

“We will have a test game with options for individuals to take the paper ballot and use the assisted voting device to mark the ballot, put the ballot in the printer, press on Submit, then they can review their results to see how the machine is performing. ,” she says.

She pointed out that the machines are wired and not connected to the internet, the cloud or anything else. Omni-Ballot Automatons are tablets that are only used as assisted voting devices, not as vote tabulators.

The machines will be able to help residents who have difficulty seeing, hearing and more. It can read the ballot aloud to voters, and there’s even a keyboard for Braille. The law requires every county in Minnesota to provide assisted voting devices.

“While using this machine, the voter always has the opportunity to review their ballot before submitting it,” Blaine said. “It’s not like I put all these decisions in a machine and then it’s gone and I can’t see it. We always use a paper ballot that is marked and reviewed by the voter before it is tabulated. »

Robinson explained that on election night, after the polls close, if there are 100 voters in that polling place, for example, it is up to the election judges to tie the results. In other words, if there were 100 voters, they must ensure that 100 ballots were returned.

Once this is balanced, two election officers from opposing political parties bring the information to the auditor/treasurer’s office. There the votes are checked and rechecked to make sure they balance.

In the auditor/treasurer’s office, polling station information is transferred from a secure chip in the machine to a standalone computer, which is also not connected to the internet or the cloud. They then entered this computer.

Once the votes have been verified in all precincts, they are added together and placed on another chip which is transferred to another computer to be uploaded to the Secretary of State’s website.

“If there was anything manipulated from when we go to the offline stand-alone computer to uploading to the Secretary of State’s website, because it’s a stand-alone computer line, then we would know immediately and we could go back to where the discrepancy is and we could let the secretary of state know,” Robinson said. “None of the results from the open polls would be disrupted because they are on a separate, self-contained computer.”

Finally, as part of the canvassing process, ballots are drawn from randomly selected precincts and counted by hand to ensure they match what was tallied on the machine.

“How I see this, the standalone computer where these chips are tabbed, I view this standalone computer as really just a giant computer of all races,” Blaine said.

The county is also taking several steps to ensure that deceased voters are removed from voter rolls. Robinson said Kahl even went so far as to check obituaries in the days leading up to the election to make sure there was no one left on the list who is no longer living.

They also take precautions to prevent people from voting twice. For example, if someone voted by mail during the early voting period, it would be noted on that person’s constituency list and the election judges could reject it.

Voting more than once is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Kahl said there was a case in which a voter was able to vote twice in 2020. In this case, a man’s wife filled out a mail-in ballot for her husband and mailed it without his knowledge. . His neighborhood was not open for in-person voting, so he traveled to another neighborhood to attempt to vote on Election Day.

Even though he shouldn’t have been able to vote in that precinct, Kahl said the election judges made a mistake and let him vote.

She quickly noticed the mistake and referred the matter to the county attorney’s office.

“They investigated and it came out what happened,” Kahl said. “The woman was charged for this.”

“My point is that this proves you’re doing a great job in the county taking those checks and balances,” Commissioner Randy Winscher said.

Robinson said people in his office take election laws seriously. Each person who votes signs an oath stating that they are able and eligible to vote, and that they do not vote more than once.

“There is a legal process that if someone tries to vote twice you will be caught, you will be charged and it will be on your record,” she said.

Robinson also reviewed a meeting several county officials had on May 19 with residents Jeremy Pekula and Erik van Mechelen, who asked for a chance to discuss election matters. Along with Robinson and Kahl, County Administrator Matt LeBlanc, Blaine and Council Vice Chairman Jeffrey Jelinski attended this meeting.

She said Pekula and van Mechelen shared videos from different states, other than Minnesota, on election topics, as well as data from a New York Times article and an impression from a Gateway Pundit author. They followed that up with a proposal to secure elections in the county with 10 procedural changes, as well as a resolution to move forward with manual counting.

Robinson and Blaine noted that the two residents said they were not concerned about election integrity among Morrison County election officials. Robinson said it’s also important to note that each state has different laws regarding elections.

For information on Minnesota election laws and procedures, she said the easiest way is to visit the Secretary of State’s website.

The proposals put forward by Pekula and van Mechelen involved changing the procedures of the electoral law.

“They cannot be changed or passed on to the county government level,” Robinson said. “They should go through the House and the state. These are laws they were proposing to change, and there is a process for that.

Regarding the resolution to move to manual counting, she said she shared with them the history of election materials in Morrison County, which are all tested and certified before an election.

“The Morrison County post-election review has consistently passed the audit tests,” she said. “I also shared an example of how election equipment improves voter accuracy in a primary election.”

Commissioner Mike LeMieur said he has read that tabulating votes on a machine is more reliable than manually counting ballots. Kahl said that while she hasn’t seen this information, it wouldn’t surprise her. The manual counting process, she said, is tedious and involves election judges who are at the end of a long day. She said it goes without saying that mistakes could be made.

“I just want to recognize Joyce, because she is our office’s wealth of knowledge about elections,” Robinson said. “I don’t know what I would do without her.”

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