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COOK COUNTY CONNECTIONS: 2020 State General Election

Oct 02, 2020 08:52AM ● By Editor

By Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Election Administrator Cortnee Bernier

Coping with change has become the norm in 2020, and elections are no exception.  Here are some of the changes from the primary election that will continue and expand through the general election due to court orders, pandemic health concerns and public safety concerns:

  • Absentee Voting:  Absentee ballot applications are pouring in from Grand Marais residents.  As of this writing, we have received over 400 applications from city residents and over 500 total countywide.  The public has taken to heart public health recommendations to avoid indoor gatherings. 
  • Early Mail Ballot Mailing:  The Auditor’s Office will be mailing ballots to registered mail ballot voters during the week beginning September 28.  This is two weeks earlier than usual and is permissible under state law, which allows mail ballots to be sent during the period 46 to 14 days prior to an election.  The earlier mailing date provides additional time for voters to return ballots by mail. This early mailing does require that we send a subsequent mailing between October 13 and October 20 to new registrants who weren’t included in the first mailing.  
  • Election Results Delay: State statutes require that ballots be received by 8 pm election night to be counted.  Final results for the primary election, however, were delayed three days due to a court ruling that election judges accept and count absentee ballots post marked election day and received up to three days later.  That same ruling extends the period for the general election by seven days to accept ballots postmarked November 3.  This means final results will not be available until November 11.  The court case was filed because of the expected large use of absentee ballots this year and the additional time needed to process absentee ballots.
  • No Witness Requirement for Registered Voters:  The other recent court ruling, which eliminated the need for registered voters to have their ballot envelope signed by a witness, remains in effect for the general election.  The court determined that health concerns outweigh the need for a witness.  Non-registered voters must still have a witness signature to verify their proofs of residency.   Note: This ruling applies only to 2020 elections. There is no prohibition against having a witness sign –  those ballots will still be accepted.   
  • Drop Box:  The county has a drop box where voters can deposit their own ballots.  Voters returning another voter’s ballot may not use the drop box and must instead deliver ballots to the Auditor’s Office during business hours.  An appointment is not required for this purpose. The box is located just outside the main entrance to the courthouse.  It is attached to the concrete and is under 24-hour camera surveillance.  Note: Ballot envelopes dropped in the box after 8 pm November 3 will not be opened or counted. 

  • More on Ballot Delivery in Person:   If you are dropping off a ballot for another voter, you will need to show an ID with your name and signature.
  • Track Your Ballot:  Go to with your driver’s license number or the last 4 digits of your SSN, whichever you used to register with, or the number you used for an absentee application, and you can see if your ballot has been ‘accepted’ at the Auditor’s Office.
  • Grand Marais Polling Places:  COVID-19 health guidelines continue and will be posted outside entrances to all polling places. They include wearing masks, using hand  sanitizer, social distancing and limiting the numbers of voters at one time. Inside, voters will find judges using face masks, plexiglass barriers, signs to clarify the process, distancing of voting booths and markings on the floor for traffic flow.  Voters may need to wait outside the polling place during peak voting periods. 
  • Courthouse The Grand Marais East polling place is located in the Commissioner’s Room, while the Auditor’s Office serves as the polling place for the eleven mail ballot precincts.  On election day, voters will see a small table just inside the main entrance where they can drop off ballots for themselves and/or as an agent for other voters (limit of 3).  Voters who need to go to the polling place will go through metal detection and x ray screening before proceeding.  From there, they will be directed to the Commissioner’s Room or Auditor’s Office for voting.  Anyone with court business will be directed to the 2nd floor.  Voters will see floor markings distanced six feet apart as they wait to enter the Commissioner’s Room or Auditor’s Office during peak times. 
  • Community Center As at the primary, Grand Marais West voters will be routed through a conference room and hallway before they exit to limit their contact with other voters.  Floor markings and signs will direct the flow through the area.
  • District 1 Primary:  Voters in Commissioner District 1 (Grand Portage, Hovland and Colvill) will see a Special Primary Election on their ballots for the vacant District 1 Commissioner seat.  The top two vote getters will go on the Special Election in February 2021.
  • District 4:  Voters in District 4 (Gunflint and Maple Hill) will see School Board Member District 4 under School District Offices with no candidate listed, as no one filed for this office.  Voters will see a place to Write-In a candidate’s name and fill in an oval.  The write-in votes will determine who fills this office in January 2021.
  • We Still Need Your Help:  Election officials and judges are doing what we can to limit everyone’s exposure to the virus, but we need the public’s help to be successful.  Key ways you can help include:
    • Follow all the health guidelines to the best of your ability.
    • Vote absentee if you live in Grand Marais to avoid having to go to the polls.
    • Register and vote by mail before election day.  Unregistered voters in mail ballot precincts can register at and will be sent materials to vote by mail and will avoid going to the Auditor’s Office on election day.
    • Register and vote in person prior to election day.  Unregistered voters in mail ballot precincts can also visit the Auditor’s Office in the Courthouse prior to election day and register and vote. They will avoid long lines and wait times on election day.  

For more information on the election process please contact us at: 218-387-3640 or [email protected] or visit the Secretary of State at:

Stay safe and vote!

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service


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