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Dave Olson, Published January 22 2009

Ritchie sorts out voting issues

Area election officials met with Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie in Moorhead on Wednesday to discuss ways the state can improve its voting process.

The tight U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken highlighted a number of ballot issues.

One of them – absentee voting – was a big part of the discussion, said Clay County Auditor Lori Johnson, who met with Ritchie along with officials from Becker, Norman and Otter Tail counties.

Johnson said talk focused on ways to simplify the absentee voting process, including eliminating the requirement that ballots be witnessed by someone other than the voter.

Having instructions printed on the ballot envelope itself, instead of on separates pieces of paper, may also be helpful, Johnson said.

“We had a lot of people who did not sign their envelope,” she said.

Johnson told Ritchie she supports early voting, which she said appeared to work well in North Dakota last fall.

She said Ritchie seemed receptive to the ideas presented and he wrote down every one.

“We think we have a really good process already, but there’s always room for improvement and we’re looking for ways to improve it,” Johnson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555