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Ryan Johnson, Published October 27 2012

Thousands expected to vote early in Cass and Clay counties

FARGO – Election Day is still more than a week away, but thousands of residents in Cass and Clay counties have already cast their ballots.

Both counties began offering absentee voting, with participants either mailing a ballot in or filling out a ballot at the county auditor’s office, in late September.

Cass County residents will have another chance to weigh in before Nov. 6 with early voting, which starts Monday and continues through Friday at two locations in Fargo and a third location open Wednesday through Friday in Casselton.

Cass County has already received about 6,600 absentee ballots from the more than 10,000 mailed out so far this election cycle, said Election Coordinator DeAnn Buckhouse. By the time Election Day rolls around, she said she expects to process about 9,000 absentee ballots this year – about the same as in 2008, the last presidential election.

But early voting numbers could see a boost, with Fargo residents able to vote at two locations this fall instead of the single site that drew 20,744 early voters in 2008.

The locations are the Doublewood Inn, 3333 13th Ave. S., and the Hilton Garden Inn, 4351 17th Ave. S.

“Now that we have two and it’s caught on very well, it wouldn’t surprise me to see anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 at each location,” Buckhouse said. “It’s become a very popular option.”

Clay County Auditor-Treasurer Lori Johnson said early voting isn’t available yet in Minnesota, though it’s something local and state officials are looking at for future elections.

Still, she said absentee voting is playing a bigger role in elections. About 2,500 county residents voted with absentee ballots in 2008, making up about 8 percent of the overall turnout. Johnson said about 2,800 could vote this way by Election Day.

“If Minnesota had early voting, I think that would even increase the voter turnout more,” she said.

As of Friday, Clay County had received about 1,200 of the 1,800 absentee ballots sent out so far.

Local residents who don’t want to wait until Election Day to vote can still mail in an absentee ballot or fill one out at the county auditor’s office through Nov. 5, the day before the election.

But Johnson said those who want to vote by mail are running out of time to have their ballots counted.

“Even by next Wednesday, I would think if they’re local they’d still have time,” she said. “But it’s getting a little closer.”

There’s still another choice if local residents miss out on early voting or absentee voting – going to the proper polling site on Election Day.

Both Johnson and Buckhouse said all signs point to a slightly higher turnout this year than the counties saw in 2008, when 29,334 voted in Clay County and Cass County counted 72,069 ballots.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587

Cast your ballot early

There’s still time to vote early for those who don’t want to cast their ballots on Election Day.

• Cass County residents can mail in absentee ballots or fill one out at the Cass County Auditor’s Office, 211 9th St. S. in Fargo, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday up until Nov. 5.

• Cass County also is offering early voting at three sites this week. Early voting is available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Doublewood Inn, 3333 13th Ave. S., and the Hilton Garden Inn, 4351 17th Ave. S., in Fargo. A third site will be open in Casselton from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the Days Inn, 2050 Governor’s Drive. For more information, visit www.casscountynd.gov.

• Minnesota doesn’t offer early voting, but absentee voting is still available to those who fill out a ballot at the Clay County Auditor’s Office, 807 11th St. S. in Moorhead. For more information, visit www.co.clay.mn.us.