Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 28, 2005

Counting time Tuesday for HLWW ballots

By Lynda Jensen

The deadline is finally here for ballots in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district referendum regarding the school levy.

Completed ballots will be accepted at the district office in Howard Lake until 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 29. A poll location will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.What's in it for YOU?

The levy would generate $720,000 in revenue for the school district is both questions pass. The first question deals with funding school operations (curriculum, supplies, teachers, repairs) while the second is about funding for transportation of bus purchases.

Some ballots hung up for one day

For a short time, approximately 300 Winsted ballots were delayed due to incorrect information on voter registration given by voters, and ultimately provided by McLeod County to the school district.

Ballots were returned to the district office March 15 in boxes by the Winsted Post Office as undeliverable, said District Secretary and Election Judge Marilyn Greeley.

It is illegal for the post office to forward official ballots.

The flap caused several school district staff members to scramble for a day, quickly readdressing envelopes.

Voters are responsible for notifying the county of any change of address, she said. “Most people don’t do that,” she added.

It came down to if post office box information was registered or not, she said.

The Winsted post office went out of its way to help the district over the issue, Greeley said.

“She went above and beyond the call of duty,” Greeley said of Mary Trinka of the Winsted Post Office. It would have taken the district a week, instead of a day, to readdress the envelopes otherwise, she said.

Winsted has an unusual number of post office box holders who don’t have their mail properly addressed to their boxes, commented Mary Ott of the post office.

“They weren’t using proper addresses,” Ott said.

This caused an unusual number of Winsted residents to have delayed ballots.

If the post office box wasn’t listed by voters, then the ballot was delayed, Greeley said.

A total of about 600 ballots were returned from all three post offices, or less than 12 percent of the total number sent, but the concentration was from McLeod County addresses (mainly Winsted).

There are still a small number of undeliverable ballots, but these are likely people who legitimately moved or are deceased, she said.

The district sent out 5,200 ballots, with 2,500 being received so far, she said.

What happens next

There is a special post office box in Howard Lake collecting HLWW ballots, Supt. George Ladd said at the school board meeting last Monday.

As the post office box fills up with ballots, they are removed and placed in a locked box. Unacceptable ballots are placed in a separate locked box.

On the deadline day, Tuesday, March 29 at 8:01 p.m., the locked boxes will be opened, processed, and counted in the media room at the high school.

There will 10 election judges rotating throughout the process, with two judges present at all times and the majority of the judges present at 8 p.m., Ladd said.

The judges have been put through a special training on the county level for the mail-in ballot procedure, Greeley said.

There will three separate areas for rejected envelopes, counted ballots, and rejected ballots, Ladd said.

Since this is a mail-in ballot, the judges must verify each vote and then register the ballot; the first half of which is usually done on-the-spot during a normal walk-in election, Greeley said. This likely means they will be counting into the night.

Results will be posted online at www.herald-journal.com, when results become available.

Anyone may watch the election judges in the process, but cannot interfere with it, Ladd said.

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