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Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

Est. 2014

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Council considers whether to add absentee voting station downtown

Council considers whether to add absentee voting station downtown

With all eyes on the 2020 elections, local officials are discussing the best ways to prepare for what they expect will be a big year for turnout.

On Monday, City Clerk Anissa Hollingshead and her county colleagues updated the city council on their efforts ahead of the 2020 elections.

Among the considerations for the council was whether to add an absentee voting station in the downtown government center.

Doing so, proponents say, would make voting more accessible given transit options and the sheer volume of people who work downtown.

It could also, according to Rochester Mayor Kim Norton, ease concerns about where to vote early. The county is changing locations this year — moving this time to 2122 Campus Drive in southeast Rochester.

“This is a government building that people would expect if you could vote, you could go to City Hall,” said Norton. “So, I think there is probably just an innate expectation that this would be a place to go.”

County election officials said they do not anticipate the location change will have a major impact on voter turnout in the county, which already has an above-average voter rate in one of the best states in the U.S. for turnout.

Council Member Shaun Palmer said he sees no reason for the city to get into the election business. Absentee voting at the government center would cost the city between $118,000-$200,000 depending on who administered it.

“I think keeping it with the county makes more sense,” he said. “It’s no cost to us. It’s no cost to the voters. It’s not confusing.”

The $200,000 cost would support the county in remodeling an area of the government center to set up as a polling place. The $118,000 number would cover staff time for the city clerk’s office to administer the program.

The council is expected to resume discussion on the topic in the coming weeks.

Sean Baker is a Rochester journalist and the founder of Med City Beat.

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