Suburb opens up absentee ballot process to boost confidence in election integrity

Election integrity continues to be a hot issue heading into the highly anticipated election this fall, particularly when it comes to absentee voting. As a result, the Twin Cities suburb of Shakopee has opened up the process and invited the public to see first-hand how in-person absentee ballots get handled and tallied from start to finish.

Shakopee City Clerk Lori Hensen told Southwest Media that city hall takes voters’ concerns about the electoral process seriously.

“People watch the news. People listen to what the national news says about elections and election integrity, and they listen to what the world says about American politics, fraud and all of the negative connotations about our election process,” she said. “This is a way for us to educate our community — to say, ‘Not here. Not in our community. This is not the way we do business.’”

The Shakopee City Council threw its full support behind a plan for the city clerk to set up election boards made up of a member of each political party to process the ballots in full view of the public, according to Southwest Media.

For the next couple of months, the City Clerk’s Office will be holding absentee ballot board meetings in the council chambers. Members of the public can sit in the chambers and watch the boards review the envelopes and, later on, open the envelopes and start counting and processing ballots.

“People are able to come here at city hall and watch the ballot boards do this process,” Hensen told councilors at their June 7 meeting. “We want transparency. We want people to feel comfortable that their ballot is being handled with integrity and that their ballot is being safe and taken care of.”

The council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing Hensen to establish the ballot boards. “We can always learn something about the integrity and get educated about our process,” Mayor Bill Mars said at the meeting.

Residents will be able to monitor the absentee ballot boards during early voting for the primary already underway for the primary, as well as for the November 8 general election. But officials in the southwestern suburb also intend to make other resources available to the public in order to boost understanding of and confidence in the system.

Partnering with the city communications department, the City Clerk’s Office will be creating educational videos and posting them online for the public to learn more about the voting process, equipment and different components making up election season.

Hensen said this will include content like filming a public accuracy test for machines and showing how poll pads work when people enter a polling location and check in before voting.

Training videos will also be made for election judges via a new elections program. In addition to face-to-face training with Hensen, judges will have access to training videos and quizzes for those needing a refresher throughout election season.

Shakopee officials may have their hands full finding enough election judges, given the increasing popularity of absentee voting. But the results will be worth it if increased accountability leads to renewed public confidence in elections.