School officials cross fingers for high general election turnout

Published 7:20 am Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Austin Public School District was one of only four districts in Minnesota to hold a primary school board election Tuesday.

Although turnout was low at 1,479, officials do not believe that is necessarily an indicator of participation in the general election Nov. 3.

The 2007 general election turnout was 3,371; however, an operating referendum was not on the ballot, explained Lori Volz, director of finance and operations.

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“Just for reference, I would think we would have a larger voter turnout in 2009 than in our general in 2007,” Volz said Wednesday during a canvassing meeting, when the election results were certified.

2007 election

Voter turnout: 3,371

Operating referendum on ballot?: No

Winners, with seven running (terms expire in 2011):

Don Fox 2,620 votes

Curt Rude 2,429

Diana Wangsness 2,056

Kathy Green 1,558

2003 election

Voter turnout: 5,545

Operating referendum on ballot?: Yes

Winners, with 10 running:

Kathy Green 2,591

Kimberly Jacobson 2,545

Daniel M. Heins 2,364

Larry W. Andersen 2,253

Source: Finance and Operations office, Austin Public Schools

Superintendent David Krenz said districts choose whether to have operating referendums on ballots during even or odd years, and Austin chose odd years.

“A lot of districts have gone to the even years because of the expense of the elections,” Krenz said. Costs such as judges and equipment rental can be split between the odd and even years in those cases.

Presidential and gubernatorial elections are held on even years, “which brings out more people,” Krenz added.

The superintendent said he believes their first primary “went very well.”

In 2003 there were 10 candidates for four board positions; however, a primary election system was not in place, so all candidates were on the general election ballot, Volz said.

“The general election in 2003 had a larger voter turn out due the fact that there was a referendum election along with the school board election,” Volz said. “The voter turn out in 2003 was 5,545.”

No write-in candidates are allowed for primary elections, although voters may write in up to three for the general election. Eighty-three of the 1,396 ballots were absentees, which were handled by the Mower County Auditor’s Office.

Volz said no glitches were reported with the new Opti-Scan voting machines, which tabulate totals and print out reports.

“…I would say this was the smoothest election as far as process,” Volz said.

David Simonson, Jeff Kritzer, Jeff Ollman, Mary Kleis, Aaron Keenan and Richard Lees advanced Tuesday to the general election, when they will vie for three spots on the board. Lees collected the highest number of votes at 640. Candidates Tracey Chamberlain and Aaron DeVries were eliminated.

According to the Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State, other districts that held primaries Tuesday included Esko, Saint Paul and Duluth. Seven cities also held municipal elections.