Dreary skies, enthusiastic voters

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE and RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 6, 2012 - 11:24 PM

Few seemed swayed by long lines, occasional rain and even a bomb threat near a polling place in southwestern Minnesota.

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Rahma Ahmed's first trip to the voting booth was a long one.

Ahmed, who became a U.S. citizen this year, waited most of the afternoon Tuesday, part of it outside in the rain, before finally casting a ballot at an overrun polling place in south Minneapolis. She was angry, she said, but also determined.

"I just became a citizen. I have to vote, because it's my duty," Ahmed said.

Despite occasional long lines, dark skies over much of the state, and even a bomb threat in a building near a polling site in southwestern Minnesota, voters appeared to enthusiastically turn out Tuesday in a general election that featured a hard-fought presidential campaign and two down-to-the-wire state ballot initiatives.

Many polling places reported strong turnout -- often at the crack of dawn -- as Minnesota tried to maintain its record as the country's top state for voter turnout.

Ahmed was one of hundreds of voters at the Seward Square Apartments caught in a polling place change dictated by redistricting. Outside, a woman passed out ponchos and hats to those in line; someone else handed out pizza.

Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl said this year's redistricting tried to balance the number of voters across precincts, but the outcome was long lines at some, and no waiting at others.

While most of those in line waiting patiently, state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who doesn't live in the precinct but went to the polling place after hearing about the delays, was irate. She got election judges to open a different door to allow more voters to wait inside, out of the rain.

"I don't believe in the death penalty, but somebody at the city should be executed," she said.

Coffee helped

Deep into her caffeine quota, Sharon Lamb, 69, waited 45 minutes to vote at the fire station on Londin Lane in Maplewood, spending some of that time in the elements.

"It's cold out here, it's terrible," Lamb said. "We are Minnesotans. We brave the storm. It is what it is."

At St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis, more than 800 people among 1,520 registered voters in that precinct had voted as of 1:15 p.m.

"This precinct usually votes 85 to 95 percent," said election judge Karyne Harstad. "They feel this is their divine right, and they have to do it."

Church banner removed

In South St. Paul, a banner stating "Strengthen marriage, don't redefine it" that hung outside St. John Vianney Catholic Church as the polls opened was quickly taken down to comply with state law banning campaign signs within 100 feet of a building housing a polling place.

In Duluth, voters at one precinct were for about an hour errantly given an outdated ballot that listed state Rep. Kerry Gauthier, a DFLer who dropped out after a rest-stop sex scandal. City Clerk Jeff Cox said he believed it was the only precinct to get the bad ballot, and voters were able to write in the replacement DFLer's name if they wished.

A polling place at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Canby, Minn., was closed for about 90 minutes as authorities responded to a reported bomb threat in a neighboring building.

Two students reported seeing "bomb in school" written on the back of a bathroom stall door in the administration building. Four buildings were closed as officials investigated, including one that housed a polling place with 500 registered voters. It was closed for 90 minutes midday.

County property and public services director Janell Timm, who manages voting in the county, said she thought it was unlikely anybody wouldn't be able to vote.

Staff writers Paul Walsh, Colleen Kelly and Maria Baca contributed to this report. mcaul@startribune.com • 612-673-7646 richard.meryhew@startribune.com 612-673-4425

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