Less than 6 pct. of county voters cast ballots; State sees about 7 pct.

Published 10:55 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mower County Commissioner Tim Gabrielson walked around the Mower County Fair on Tuesday on its first night wearing a red “I voted” sticker and was met with surprise.

He recalled many people asking him: What’d you vote for?

“Most people had no idea,” he said of the primary.

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Gabrielson’s experience was pretty representative of Mower County and Minnesota’s turnout to Tuesday’s primaries, as voter turnout again declined in Mower County.

Less than 6 percent of Mower County’s eligible voters turned out for Tuesday’s primary, according to the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s office. Unofficial numbers from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office show that roughly 7 percent of eligible voters went to the polls for Tuesday’s primary election.

In Mower, 1,124 of 19,323 eligible voters — or 5.8 percent — took part in Tuesday’s primary election. That’s down from 2014 when 1,942 of 20,076 registered voters participated — or 9.6 percent— and it’s down sharply from 2012 when 2,887 of 20,197 — 14.2 percent — of registered voters participated.

As a candidate, Gabrielson admitted he didn’t have a great feeling heading into primary night because of the low turnouts — you just don’t know what’s going to happen.

Upon learning it was primary night, Gabrielson said some people told him they didn’t vote Tuesday but would vote for him in November. Gabrielson told them, “If I make it.”

Gabrielson would win his primary with more than half the votes in Mower County’s District 1, and James Williams finished second by four votes to advance to challenge Gabrielson in the Nov. 8 election.

But the race wasn’t decided by a wide swath of the population. Gabrielson received 143 votes, Williams received 71 votes and Dan Vermilyea received 67 for a total of 281 votes.

After narrowly beating out Vermilyea, Williams said it’s hard to take much away from the results with so few voters from Tuesday.

“There’s less than 300 people that voted,” he said. “There’s not much to take from those results.”

Williams acknowledged that it he’s going to beat an incumbent, more people will need to be interested in the race.

“I’m hoping that people will start to take a bit more notice that there is a county commissioner race and ask some questions,” he said.