State’s primary turnout among lowest ever

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 13, 2002

MINNEAPOLIS &045; Tuesday’s primary drew the smallest percentage of Minnesota voters of any held in a nonpresidential election year since modern records started in 1950.

There were 481,294 voters in the election, or 18.6 percent of the state’s registered voters.

For many voters, there was little reason to head to the polls since there were few contests for party nominations to run for major state offices. Incumbents, and most candidates endorsed by their parties, fared well.

Email newsletter signup

Because Minnesota’s constitutional offices, such as governor and secretary of state, are on the ballot in nonpresidential election years, the primary election draws more people than in presidential years.

Indeed, Tuesday’s turnout was well above the record low for a primary. In 1988, only 9.8 percent of the state’s voters participated.

However, the turnout fell below the previous nonpresidential election-year record of 19.6 percent set in 1998.

In Freeborn County, where heated races for sheriff, mayor of Albert Lea and Albert Lea City Council were on the ballot, countywide turnout was

41.3 percent, and within Albert Lea it was 46.5 percent.

The record high turnout for any Minnesota primary was in 1966, when 38.3 percent of voters took part. That was the year Lt. Gov. A.M. &uot;Sandy&uot; Keith challenged Gov. Karl F. Rolvaag in the Democratic primary.

Keith won the DFL endorsement on the 21st ballot of a nominating convention that took two days that spring. But Rolvaag won the September primary by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

&uot;It was one of the most humiliating defeats in history,&uot; Keith recalled in an interview Thursday. &uot;It was a great education for a young man.&uot;

It also served as an education to party leaders. The divisiveness of that primary battle contributed to Rolvaag’s defeat in the general election two months later. Republican Harold

LeVander was elected and served one term.