The Crosslake City Council indicated with a 4-1 vote on Monday, December 11, 2023, their intent to do their own absentee ballot administration for upcoming elections in 2024 (for elections after the Presidential Primary Election).
That resolution was brought to the County Commissioner Board meeting in Crow Wing County on Tuesday December 12, 2023. Note that there was no decision point for the Board, but that it was brought as a point of information.
Up until now, in Crow Wing County, there were not any cities or townships that had indicated intent to do their own administration of absentee ballots during the current tenure of the County Auditor.
Upon receiving notice about the resolution, the Crow Wing Auditor asked the Secretary of State to weigh in.
According to the Crow Wing Auditor, the City of Crosslake will have to get approval from the Secretary of State that they have met the technical requirements to do their own absentee ballot administration which includes accessing the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) and training on same.
The Absentee Voter Administration Guide details those requirements (Appendix D).
The County Auditor emphasized there is no authorization warranted or required from the Crow Wing County Board regarding the City of Crosslake's Resolution 23-29.
The county will assist with staffing.
One commissioner asked about the domino effect of other cities and municipalities jumping on board to administer their own absentee ballots.
The authority to do this can be delegated from the county to the municipalities or the municipality can pass a resolution toward that effect so long as they have a full-time clerk.
There were discussions about overall cost for 2024 elections.
This omnibus bill was mentioned which created a voting operations technology resource fund: "Almost $2.6 million from the General Fund would create a voting operations, technology, and election resources account in the special revenue fund to help local elections officials with costs."
The Auditor also spoke to the increases in cost that are expected by the expansion in the recent 93rd Legislature of direct balloting (to 18 days).
Toward the end of the 20-minute segment, the Auditor noted that if a municipality wanted to manage their entire elections in the odd years (for municipal elections only, not in conjunction with county, state, federal elections), they can do so.
One commissioner asked if the City Council in Crosslake thought Crow Wing County was doing anything wrong with elections, to which the Mayor of Crosslake replied, No, just that the citizens wanted to have increased oversight locally.