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How Are Absentee Ballots Counted?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Secretary of State is reporting that more than 900,000 Minnesotans have already cast their ballots.

Many of those people mailed in or dropped off their ballots.

Tuesday was the first day election offices could start counting them, starting at exactly 4:30 p.m.

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More than a dozen people got to work in Dakota County to process more than 87,000 absentee ballots. That's 31% of all registered voters in the county.

Andy Lokken is the head of Dakota County Elections. First, the staff, or volunteers, take the ballot out.

"Two teams of staff will take it and make sure that the voter name and voter number that they provided us are the ones that match the record for those who've applied, and that they've signed it," Lokken said.

So far, they've only had to reject 1.2% of ballots.

"They didn't put their number on the certificate. It's usually very, very obvious," Lokken said. "Or, for some reason, they didn't give us the right number."

Those voters are then given replacement ballots to try again.

"At that point, what we would do is we take them over here into this other space," Lokken said.

In an often-locked closet, the ballots are sorted by precinct.

"We have a bucket for each of our cities, as you see Lilydale, you know, here," he said.

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That sorting has happened over the past few weeks. It's the processing that began Tuesday.

"We go through all of these signature envelopes and open them, and pull out the ballot secrecy envelope, and inside the ballot secrecy envelope is obviously the ballot, so then pull the ballot out," he said. "What makes a ballot official in Minnesota is that it's been initialized by two election judges, and so that's what our staff is also doing here, they're making the ballots official."

From there, the ballots are then scanned. Since the scanners aren't networked for security reasons, that results data is taken by USB drive to another spot, where all the results are stored.

Then, only on election night is that information released and reported to the secretary of state's office.

"We generally see it on the same displays that the public does on election night," Lokken said.

He says it will take his office five days to get through the ballots they already have. Their goal is to have all the ballots in by Election Day counted by election night..

Click here to check the status of your absentee ballot.

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