State sets ballot record, with 2.91 million voting

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 5, 2008 - 9:37 PM

Minnesota's 78 percent participation rate likely will lead the nation once again, but it falls short of the state's record, 83 percent, which was set in 1956.

More Minnesotans showed up to vote Tuesday than ever before, and likely produced the highest voter percentage of any state in the nation once again.

An estimated 2,913,645 of more than 3.7 million eligible voters participated, or 77.87 percent. The state did fall short of the 80 percent goal of the Minnesota secretary of state and the record 83 percent vote, set in 1956.

While most of the nearly 3 million voters did so without major problems, there were scattered reports of machine malfunctions, misinformation by election judges and voters who had disappeared from the rolls, according to election watch groups.

But no complaints had been filed Wednesday, said Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State.

"Yesterday, Minnesotans cast a record number of ballots," said Ritchie. "We hope that after all the votes have been counted, our state will again lead the nation in voter turnout. It was an exciting day."

Some areas of the state, such as Duluth, saw participation closer to 90 percent. But Ritchie said Wednesday that, while the full results are not in, it appears voting among the elderly was down. That may have been due to news reports of long lines, he said.

About 1 percent of those who voted for president did not vote in the U.S. Senate race, Ritchie said.

Four contests had margins of victories of less than one-half of 1 percent, triggering automatic recounts. Those races include the U.S. Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, House District 16A and Senate District 16 in Mille Lacs County and House District 12B in Morrison County.

Ritchie said recounts are fairly common. The state Canvassing Board will meet on Nov. 18 to certify the election results. After the board meets, a recount is done.

Considering that nearly 3 million people went to polls staffed by 30,000 election judges, the election went smoothly, Ritchie said.

Mike Dean, of voting watch group Election Protection, said the group received about 800 calls, but most were questions of poll locations and other requests for information.

Dean said they received 15 or 20 calls from voters whose names had disappeared from voter rolls. Some of them were able to register that day and vote.

There were a few reported instances in which voters were given incorrect information, such as they could not use a temporary driver's license or could not vote because they didn't speak English, he said.

"This is becoming a growing issue because of number of immigrants we have," said Dean.

Election Protection also dispatched a monitor to a precinct near Cedar and Riverside in Minneapolis after complaints that a Republican challenger -- a person designated by a party to monitor voters and challenge any that don't appear to be properly registered -- was intimidating people. While only one challenger is allowed at a precinct, there were three Republican challengers at the site, Dean said.

The Twin Cities Daily Planet also reported that a translator at the Cedar-Riverside precinct had been coaching voters on whom to vote for.

No complaints had been made to the secretary of state's office, however. Election Protection will be studying anecdotal complaints and releasing a report, said Dean.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that his office will be investigating any reports of voter fraud, and that there are usually a few each election.

There was one report of a woman who received an automated call that told her to vote by phone because the lines were long. It's not possible to vote by phone.

"If we see a large number of such calls we will investigate," said Freeman. "That's why we want the public to report them."

There were other scattered reports of temporary power failures and jammed voting machines, but they were rectified.

Minnesota turnout hasn't topped 80 percent since 1956, when 83 percent of eligible voters showed up. That was a presidential year that saw Dwight D. Eisenhower win re-election over Adlai Stevenson.

Jon Tevlin • 612-673-1702

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