SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A record number of absentee ballots are set to wind up in mailboxes across Minnehaha County in the coming days. Workers with the auditor’s office have prepared 23,000 absentee ballots that will be bound for the post office Friday, the official start of early voting in South Dakota.

Many voters don’t want to risk voting in-person because of COVID-19. But you may not want to be as generous applying hand sanitizer while you’re filling out your absentee ballots.

Getting thousands of absentee ballots ready for the mail is a painstaking process at the Minnehaha County auditor’s office.

“It’s a simple job, but it has to be done right,” mail-in ballot worker Rick Pesek said.

A lot of the work involves sorting the ballots alphabetically, as Friday’s deadline looms.

“We’ve been working hard at it this week and we are nearing the end and so it’s kind of a relief, but it’s been fun working with everyone here,” Pesek said.

Voters should start receiving the ballots in the mail next week. The auditor hopes voters will fill them out and return them quickly, to avoid another surge of late-arriving ballots.

“Some people argue, well, I don’t know everything about all the candidates, well, we need you to return that ballot so we don’t have a big issue come Election Day,” Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said.

It’s a sign of the times for democracy during the pandemic: hand sanitizer on some of the absentee ballots would somehow stop the counting machines during the June primary.

“What happened was, it would loosen-up the ink and the ink would stick to the rollers and create a coating on there,” Litz said.

Litz says he doesn’t want to discourage voters from using sanitizer. So, he says his office will deal with any mechanical problems that might arise from sticky ballots on election night.

If you want to save on postage, the auditor’s office will have an absentee ballot drop-box set up at the Minnehaha County Administration Building, as well as at the Election Center, across the street, starting October first.

Friday is also the first day of in-person absentee voting. You can cast your ballot at the Election Center.

The auditor’s office will also be running tests on its vote-counting machines Friday.