Hettinger County giving residents two options

It was previously reported by The Herald that voting locations would be available around the county. However, voters will have only two options when polling opens in June: vote-by-mail, or at the Hettinger County Courthouse in Mott.

Voting booths in polling place

By COLE BENZ
Herald Editor

It was previously reported by The Herald that voting locations would be available around the county. However, voters will have only two options when polling opens in June: vote-by-mail, or at the Hettinger County Courthouse in Mott.

This election season Hettinger County has adopted a new method of voting. Voters who previously cast a ballot in the last two elections, or are turning 18 before the election day, should have received a voting application in the mail. The voters who do not wish to drive to Mott, need to fill out the application and send it in to the county. The county will then in turn send out a voting ballot. That ballot, once the voter has selected their candidates, would have to be sent back to the county.

The hope, according to Hettinger County Auditor Jeri Schmidt, is that the vote-by-mail will be more convenient for those not wishing to drive to Mott. From New England the drive is nearly 40 miles, one way.

This process is essentially absentee ballot voting, which is why Schmidt said it is getting confusing for some residents. Schmidt said she wished the application would have had some indication that it was, in fact, a mail-in ballot application too.

Schmidt said she was always interested in the mail-in-voting process, surrounding counties have done it for a few years now. So she approached the county commissioners and was given approval.

“It took a lot of thought,” Schmidt said of deciding to adopt this method of voting.

Schmidt also said that it takes a fair amount of work to organize polling in multiple locations, especially with polling workers being in short supply, which she said was one of the reasons they’re trying this new method. Downsizing locations will also save the county money.

Not all residents are happy with the new process.

According to New England City Auditory Jason Jung, he has received feedback from community members that feel this takes away from the local election process.

However, Schmidt told The Herald that it is possible to move polling locations, and suggested that next election season New England host the polling location.

Jung did say that he thought this new method might encourage an increase in voter turnout this year. With elderly residents, and those not accustomed to driving to the polls, he thinks this makes it more convenient for some residents to cast a ballot.

He also said that he will be going through the mail-in process himself. So he can see how it works and then have the experience to be able to answer questions from residents on the process.

Schmidt said the turnaround time for getting ballots out to voters should be short.

“If we get the applications in one day, we want to get the ballots out the next day, if not the same day,” Schmidt said.

Ballots must be postmarked the day before the election to count. If a ballot is postmarked on June 13, but the county receives it after polling closes, it may have to go to the canvasing committee.

“I could probably see what we can do, about [going] as late as we can go, I’d have to figure that one out,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said that anyone with questions are welcome to call the auditor’s office at 701-824-2515.

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