Local voters did better than state average

Published 9:16 am Thursday, November 4, 2010

Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer Dennis Distad reported countywide voter turnout for the general election on Tuesday to be higher than statewide voter turnout.

“It was a gorgeous day outside, great for getting out to vote,” he said.

Overall, Distad reported a 72 percent voter turnout across the county, with 13,565 registered voters casting ballots.

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He said there are 18,716 registered voters in Freeborn County.d

Dennis Distad

Before the elections, Distad anticipated a 79 to 80 percent voter turnout across the county, but was happy with the 72 percent.

“That’s pretty good for a mid-term election,” he said.

Distad said that the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office reported a 70 percent voter turnout statewide.

According to Distad, presidential elections generally draw a larger voter turnout. He said Freeborn County had an 89 percent voter turnout for the 2008 elections, which is an “excellent” number.

Distad said that no issues or problems were reported with the mechanics of the voting machines on Tuesday night.

“We had a few instances at precincts, with people wearing campaign shirts, but we asked them to cover it up, zip their jackets up. There weren’t any problems,” he added.

The only main difference in this year’s tally in comparison to past elections was that this year, absentee ballots were tallied and kept at the Freeborn County Courthouse instead of sent to the precinct before election night. If a ballot was rejected, it gave Distad’s office the chance to get in touch with the voter to explain what’s most generally an error on how the ballot was filled out and correct that.

“It saves time for the precincts, but not for us,” he said.

He said about 850 of the ballots cast in Freeborn County this election were absentee.

In Albert Lea, the polls opened at 7 a.m. and stayed open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday. In small towns with fewer than 500 people, the polls were open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Distad said his staff finalized their tallies at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The recount wait

Though the votes have been cast and tallied, the Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office isn’t quite finished with this election.

First, the Freeborn County Canvassing Board meets at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the Auditor-Treasurer’s Office to review the election.

Second, filing for the Freeborn County 5th Commissioner District seat began Wednesday morning.

Third, Distad is waiting to find out if there would be a recount in two state-level races.

Minnesota law requires recounts in races within a margin of victory of 0.5 percent or less.

In the governor’s race between Republican Tom Emmer and DFLer Mark Dayton, a 9,000-vote difference out of 2.1 million votes cast puts the results in the bounds of a mandatory statewide recount.

Locally, Republican District 27A House of Representatives candidate Rich Murray on Tuesday defeated incumbent DFL Rep. Robin Brown by a mere 58 votes. There could be a recount in this race, too, because the 58 votes equal less than 0.4 percent.

“We’ve got someone here watching the ballots now to make sure they are secure in case of a recount,” Distad said.

In the case of a recount, election judges will physically go through each ballot, one-by-one, from all 40 precincts in Freeborn County. The ballots would only be handled by election judges and sorted into piles based on who the vote is for, or which oval is filled in.

Then, the ballots will be counted — by hand.

Representatives from each political party, one representative for each judge, would oversee the process.

Distad couldn’t judge how long these recounts could take. He said during the Norm Coleman-Al Franken recount of 2008, he brought in six teams of election judges and 12 party representatives to oversee the process.

“Minnesota does have the best election system with the machine totals and the paper ballot for a paper trail,” Distad said.