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Voters say early voting is convenient, if anticlimactic

Dave Kubes and Bev Kesteloot take advantage of the no excuse absentee voting at Farmington City Hall. (Deanna Weniger | Independent Town Pages)

Dave Kubes, 42, came into Farmington's city hall last week to pay his utility bill. While he was there, the staff invited him to vote.

"My vote wasn't going to change," he said. So, why not?

Not needing an excuse this election, as he would have in 2012, he filled out an absentee application and voted in a booth set up in the lobby. There were no lines or pressure to hurry up and fill out the lengthy two-sided ballot.

Still, it felt strangely anticlimactic.

"Half of me likes the line," he said, of the excitement of voting with everyone else in November.

A state law approved shortly after the 2012 presidential election now allows voters to request absentee ballots without needing an excuse, such as being out of town or having a disability, as was the rule before.

Also new this year, voters will be able to come in a week before the election and put their own ballots in the tabulation machines, as if it was election day.

City clerks in Rosemount and Farmington say people are warming up to this more relaxed method of voting.

"People are certainly happy to vote early," said Clarissa Hadler, Rosemount's city clerk. As of Oct. 7, she's accepted 307 absentee ballots. The total absentee ballots the city received by election time in 2012 was 1,349.

Farmington has already passed the halfway mark of its total in 2012 which was 750. Cindy Muller, administrative assistant, said she's accepted 403 absentee ballots as of Oct. 6.

"It's been a lot," she said.

Both cities say the new way may be more convenient for voters, but has created more work for staffs.

"It makes us busier here," Muller said.

Hadler said they've had to hire more election judges and juggle schedules in order to have someone available to help walk-ins.

How hard is absentee voting in person? It takes about the same amount of time as voting on election day, if there were no lines.

The clerk has a single sheet of questions to verify the voter's residence. After that, the voter is given a ballot to fill out. That ballot is folded up and put into an envelope.

All ballots are counted on election night after the polls close.

Not everyone likes the idea of voting early.

Hadler said she's had several people come in to register but refuse to vote that day because they want to wait for Nov. 8.

Bev Kesteloot, 53, felt that way, but decided to vote anyway. She had just moved from Eagan and came to Farmington's city hall to make sure she was registered in the city. Staff asked her if she'd like to vote while she was there.

She agreed and said the experience was convenient, even if it did lack the excitement of election day.

"I kind of like coming in on the regular day," she said. "But at least I know it's done. I might get busy and forget. There was no waiting, so that was great."

Residents who are U.S. citizens, at least 18 years of age, have lived in Minnesota 20 days before the election, have proof of residency, and are not currently serving a felony sentence can register to vote at the polls Nov. 8.

However, both cities are encouraging people to register ahead of time either online or in person at city hall. Or a registration form can be mailed upon request.

Hadler says pre-registering saves time at the polls.

"We're expecting these lines to be very long," she said.

Folks who've moved, changed their name or haven't voted in the last four years will also need to register before voting.

To register online, go to Absentee ballots can also be provided through the mail upon request.

Early voting in Farmington

To vote early in person, go to city hall Monday through Friday from 8 a.m to 3 p.m.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, city hall will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On Monday, Nov. 7, city hall will stay open until 5 p.m.

Early voting in Rosemount

To vote early in person, go to city hall Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, city hall will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On Monday, Nov. 7, city hall will stay open until 5 p.m.