Jasper resident takes issue with mail-in voting

The Jasper City Council is considering returning to in-person voting after residents expressed dissatisfaction with mail-in voting. The city council voted to switch to mail-in voting in 2020 due to the pandemic. Pictured here are election judges Marion Peterson, Stella Lingen and Shirley Skorr who operated Jasper’s polling place at Memorial Hall during the March 3, 2020 primary election, which was the last time the city had an in-person polling place. (File Photo)

The day after Election Day, Sandy Moose, of Jasper, took her concerns about mail-in voting to the Jasper City Council during its Nov. 9 meeting.

“I hope that you people as a council will look seriously at what is being done right now, what has been done in the past and what we should do in the future,” Moose said.

Moose said voting by mail was inconvenient. She said she knew people who had accidentally thrown their ballots away because they thought it was junk mail. She said people have no proof that their ballots have been received by the county auditor’s office unless they take it there in person, which isn’t feasible for everyone.

“We’ve got elderly people in town who cannot drive or cannot drive out of town,” Moose said. “The courthouse hours are not necessarily going to jive with people who are working an eight-hour day, so taking it to the courthouse themselves may not be an option.”

She said the instructions for voting by mail can be misread or misunderstood. In addition, Moose said the need for voters in mail-in precincts to get their ballots to the county auditor’s office on time meant her ballot was already at the courthouse when the last of the candidate questionnaires came out in the Pipestone County Star, so she could not use that information to make her voting decisions.

“Those are written with the assumption that people have until yesterday (Election Day) to read those and they don’t,” Moose said.

She said she was not the only person unhappy with mail-in voting and asked why the city decided to switch to mail-in voting. The Jasper City Council voted in June of 2020 to switch to mail-in voting due to health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moose said she had spoken with multiple people who said they were willing to serve as election judges. She said voting by mail might be less expensive than voting in person, but elections were something worth spending money on.

“I’m thinking maybe there’s someplace else that doesn’t affect the people of Jasper where you can be cutting and be doing something that isn’t being done the way the people of Jasper want it to be done,” Moose said. “I just hope that you will very seriously consider going back to having a polling place on Election Day in Jasper.”

City Clerk/Treasurer Cortney Kounkel said she spoke to Pipestone County Auditor-Treasurer Amanda Sandy about the matter and was told that the city has the option to return to in-person voting before the 2024 election.

“We’ve got to think about that before next time,” said Mayor Mike Baustian.

In other business:
•The council approved a conditional use permit allowing Jim Baustian to build an 18-foot by 15-foot deck and ramp onto his home that will extend all the way to the sidewalk. The city’s zoning ordinance does not allow ramps to extend to the sidewalk, so a permit was required. No one expressed any objections or concerns during a public hearing held to take comments on the permit request, and Kounkel said no comments were received prior to the hearing.
•The council approved a resolution assessing delinquent water, sewer, garbage and property maintenance bills to property taxes. Kounkel said that as of Nov. 10, there were six people on the delinquent list. The total amounts owed were not yet available and she said the numbers could change before Nov. 30 when the bills must be paid. Delinquent amounts not paid by then will be assessed to 2023 property taxes.