Voter turnout down slightly

Published 7:48 am Thursday, November 4, 2010

Voters begin to fill the Southgate Elementary gym during the evening surge to the polls Tuesday. - Eric Johnson/

About 14,363 Mower County voters made their voices heard in Tuesday’s election.

This number comes in a little lower than expected, as more than 20,000 voters were registered before yesterday’s election.

According to Doug Groh, Mower County’s auditor and treasurer, the turnout was down slightly from previous election years, including off-years when there wasn’t a presidential election. There were more absentee voters than in previous off-years, with 818 absentee ballots counted compared to 564 absentee ballots in the November 2006 election.

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The election ran fairly smoothly, according to Groh, despite recent changes to election laws which normally don’t happen during election years. The only large snafu came from the Secretary of State’s office, which had a problem reporting two of Mower County’s 39 precincts. While the county had reported results at 10:30 p.m., the Secretary of State office’s problem made county officials have to enter data for those two precincts directly into the state’s election results website, keeping them until about 12:30 p.m.

Voting lines were congested at several polling places yesterday, such as the Austin Public Library in the morning and Banfield Elementary School throughout the day.

At one point, there were rumors voters were being turned away at Austin Public Library. This was not the case, according to Head Election Judge Ardie Ohman. People who were waiting in long lines at the library were told they could either wait longer or come back to vote at a later time, but at no time were they turned away, Ohman said.

Mower County will have to go through redistricting as a result of the 2010 census, which means county officials will have to look at precinct polling places and determine whether they can meet the needs of all the voters that need to go there. According to Groh, people from the recently-annexed Lansing area used the library as their polling place, which could account for the increased lines.

While the votes have already been cast, the county and the state aren’t done with the ballots yet. Mower County could participate in two ballot recounts for the governor’s race and the district 27A representative race between the GOP’s Rich Murray and DFLer Robin Brown because of the close vote tally margins in each race.

Groh has already heard from Republican Party representatives who were at the county auditor’s office to safeguard the ballots. There was a member of the Republican party sitting in the county auditor office lobby Wednesday afternoon, supposedly watching over the ballots, according to Groh. All ballots are sitting in a vault in the office, not near the lobby. Groh said the Republican party sent a similar member to his office during the 2008 Franken-Coleman recount, but the Republican party member left after a couple of hours.