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Absentee ballots hit new record in Hamilton County

More than 4,000 request ballots

It’s been busy at the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office recently and the courthouse has had plenty of lines as people are turning out to vote early and turn in absentee ballots.

“For the first time ever, we’ve seen lines at our window of people wishing to vote,” said Auditor Kim Schaa. She reported on her office’s activities at the Tuesday meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

On Monday, the county passed the 4,000 mark for absentee ballots – a new record.

“With about 10,000 registered voters in Hamilton County, that’s 40 percent of registered voters requesting ballots,” she said. “Out of the 4,000 requested, there are just about 500 not returned yet.”

The trend toward absentee voting has increased throughthe years. In 2012, it reached a high of 3,505 ballots sent out. In 2016, there were 3,309.For the 2020 primary election, 2,616 absentee ballots were sent out, Schaa said.

Schaa encouraged voters to get their absentee ballots filled out and returned as soon as possible. Absentee ballots returned by mail have to be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2 and be received no later than the following Monday

“We have a drop box outside our door (on the lower level of the courthouse). The envelopes have postage on them so you can mail them back, or you can walk them right back into our office,” she said.

If any voter has a ballot and decides they would like to vote in person on election day, Schaa said they can simply write “surrendered” on the ballot envelope and return them via mail or in the drop box.

“Ballots can also be surrendered at the polls on Tuesday,” she said.

Completed absentee ballots can only be returned to the auditor’s office and cannot be submitted at the polls.

“They cannot accept them at the polls. Absentee ballots have to be returned to our office by the closing of the polls Tuesday night,” she said.

The absentee ballots received will be examined by the Absentee Ballot Board on Monday, Nov. 2 to make sure the envelopes are sealed and signed. The envelopes will be opened and separated from the ballot and secrecy sleeve inside. Later, the ballots are removed from the sleeve and locked in ballot boxes overnight. Tuesday morning, the Absentee Board will repeat the same procedure for any ballots that might have arrived in the mail or that were dropped off.

“Normally, what we do is run the ballots through the scanner on Election Day but don’t run any reports until after 9 p.m. when the polls close,” she said.

Poll workers are still needed, Schaa said, due to illness and other conflicts. Those interested in volunteering can contact the auditor’s office at 832-9510. Schaa cautioned there needs to be a balanced number of poll workers from each party at the precincts.

“We’ll try to get them worked in any place we can,” she said. “So please let us know if you’re available to work the polls.”

Those still wishing to early vote can do so the rest of this week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the courthouse. The lobby will be open on Saturday, Oct. 31 from 9 to 5 p.m. for voting and the final day of early voting is Monday, Nov. 2 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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