Minnesota's voters line up early to cast ballots

  • Article by: ELIZABETH DUNBAR and STEVE KARNOWSKI , Associated Press
  • Updated: November 4, 2008 - 7:19 PM
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Laurie Coleman, Sen. Norm Coleman and daughter Sarah (who voted for the first time) talked to the media after voting Tuesday at the Linwood Recreation Center in St. Paul.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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MINNEAPOLIS - Shannon Burns was well aware of the historic nature of Tuesday's presidential election between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, and she wanted to capture the moment.

"I can't wait to show our grandchildren this one day," Burns said as she photographed herself and her 6-year-old daughter, Arie, at a polling place in St. Paul. Burns, who is black, said she voted for Obama.

"Yesterday, (my daughter) asked me if she could be president and I told her, 'Absolutely,'" Burns said. "I don't think there is a lot of black children who have asked that before."

Except for long lines, few problems were reported as Minnesotans eager to be part of the historic election drove turnout close to a state record that has stood for 52 years. Waits of over an hour were common, but in a few places it took close to three hours to vote. Unusually good weather helped, with temperatures in the 60s and low 70s and sunny skies across much of the state.

A truck hit a utility pole in St. Paul, knocking power out for about 90 minutes to two polling locations. Joe Mansky, Ramsey County's elections manager, said voting continued at those sites. Election judges said the ballots were kept secure at one of them until the power was restored, while a backup generator kicked in at the other.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office received some isolated secondhand reports of scanners malfunctioning. But John Aiken, a spokesman for the office, said those machines were being repaired or replaced, and all the ballots would be counted.

"Across the state things are going well," Aiken said. "Turnout is heavy and the secretary is certainly hoping we'll reach that 80 percent in 2008. I think we're on the mark. These small glitches aside, we're hoping we can meet that ambitious goal."

Turnout in Minnesota hasn't been that high since 83 percent of eligible voters took part in 1956.

The Election Protection watchdog group said the majority of problems its volunteers had seen were "honest mistakes by undertrained pollworkers and overwhelmed election officials."

The line to get into Grace University Lutheran Church at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis stretched nearly a block down the street at 5 p.m. As hundreds of people patiently waited, voters coming out said they had waited 90 minutes to two hours to vote.

Tanakron Ektanitphong, 21, a junior and first-time voter from Worthington, said he had to wait for three hours because he didn't have the proper documentation to register. His roommate eventually vouched for him.

Ektanitphong, who voted for McCain, said it was worth the wait.

"I was sort of intimidated when I saw the line. But I was done with classes and you only get to do this once every four years, so I figured, 'Why not?'"

Amy Newton, 25, of St. Paul, said she voted for McCain because of her anti-abortion views and McCain's experience. Newton said her brother returned from Iraq last week and "having heard what he is going through, I find myself needing to support someone with military experience for commander in chief."

Anthony Daniel, 46, brought his 7-year-old daughter, Nia, and 8-year-old son, Jerrell, along as he voted for Obama in the St. Paul suburb of Woodbury. When asked why he was supporting Obama, Nia tugged at his arm and said: "I know that. Because he's the first brown president like us."

Daniel said that wasn't his main reason — the economy and fairness were top factors. But he said he was glad he could bring his children to watch him vote.

"It's part of history. I wanted them to be a part of it," he said.

___

Associated Press writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.

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