Ramsey County officials said Wednesday that their election process went smoothly even though returns weren't released until 11:30 p.m., more than three hours after the polls had closed and long after most metro counties had tallied their totals.

Officials said they're always a bit slower with results because, out of an abundance of caution, they don't use the internet to report from their 170 polling locations.

That, along with a flood of absentee ballots, made for lots of lag time — especially compared with neighboring Hennepin, Anoka and Dakota counties, which began posting results on the Minnesota Secretary of State's website within an hour of the polls closing.

"In Ramsey County, we usually post results later than other Minnesota jurisdictions because we do not upload results directly from polling places over the internet, but rather use a non-networked process," said county spokesman John Siqveland.

County election judges physically returned the secured ballot counters to the elections office in St. Paul, with head judges arriving there starting around 8:45 p.m.

Around 11:30 p.m., county officials uploaded more than 90% of vote totals at once and then continued to upload remaining precincts as judges continued to arrive.

Two candidates running for open seats were elected mayors in their respective Ramsey County suburbs. Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas, a corporate executive, was elected mayor of New Brighton with 56% of the vote. Mayor Valerie Johnson suspended her campaign in September, but her name had remained on the ballet.

North Oaks City Council Member Kara Ries was elected mayor with 60% of the vote. She will succeed Mayor Gregg Nelson, who did not seek re-election.

Maplewood Mayor Marylee Abrams survived her first mayoral election, defeating challenger and former Mayor Bob Cardinal with 57% of the vote. Abrams was on the City Council last year when her fellow council members appointed her to fill the vacancy left when then-Mayor Nora Slawik was named to head the Metropolitan Council.

Mounds View Mayor Carol Mueller defeated challenger Sherry Gunn with 59% of the vote, and Gem Lake Mayor Gretchen Artig-Swomley won nearly 60% of the vote against James Lindner. Three other female incumbents were reelected mayor with no formal opposition.

On the Ramsey County Board, Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt handily defeated challenger Kevin Berglund. Reinhardt has represented the Seventh District, which includes White Bear Lake and Maplewood, since 1997.

Reinhardt said voters appreciated that the board had found common ground and was tackling tough issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and racial disparities. "People are paying attention that we are working together," she said. "We don't always agree, but when we do disagree, we respectfully disagree."

Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire won a third term with 70% of the vote in the Second District, which includes Roseville and New Brighton. Commissioner Nicole Joy Frethem, who was elected last year in a special election, received 66% of the vote in the First District, which includes Shoreview and Arden Hills.