MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s less than two weeks until Election Day, but many Minnesotans have already voted absentee and mail-in. Sixty percent of all requested absentee ballots in Ramsey County have already been returned.

The state is starting to count those ballots. WCCO’s Christiane Cordero visited the Metro Square office in downtown St. Paul, where there are observation spots for every major political party, media outlet or citizen to come and check out the process.

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There are three parts to an absentee ballot: the exterior signature envelope, the yellow secrecy envelope, and then the ballot itself. Workers are pulling back each layer to get to that ballot, counting each of those three parts every step of the way to make sure the numbers match.

They must match within one half of one percentage point. If not, the county does as many as three audits, which has never happened in Ramsey County.

It takes more than math to make sure the ballots count. Workers run it through a test to see if the tabulator will take it. If not — for example if there’s a tear — a staff member will copy the votes over to a duplicate so that it does count.

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Ballots that get a stamp or a signature are good to go, and off they go.

“The ballots are scanned. the machine reads them and stores the information. Then, at 8 p.m. on election night, we hit tabulate. And that’s when we get all the results,” deputy auditor Heather Bestler said.

Not every state has this opportunity to count ballots early. So when you hear Secretary of State Steve Simon say Minnesota’s in a relatively good position to turn results quickly, this is what illustrates that.

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The counting room is open every weekday from now through Nov. 10, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.