Minnesota aiming for No. 1 in voting nationally

by Howard Lestrud

“Get in line by 8 p.m.” and help Minnesota continue to hold its No. 1 ranking for voter turnout in the nation, urged Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie at mid day.
“It feels like we are in the general pattern between about 75 and 78 percent turnout,” Ritchie related.

“The morning turnout in the state was excellent and we expect a heavy turnout later in the day,” Ritchie says.

Ritchie reminds voters that if they are in line by 8 p.m., they will be given the opportunity to vote. He said most polling facilities have areas to house voters by snaking the line around inside of a building.

Social media has indicated that some people decided earlier in the day not to vote because of long lines but indicated they would return later in the day.

Mark Ritchie

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Secretary Ritchie was greeted by rainfall when he arrived at his voting precinct at 6:15 this morning but said it subsided before the polls opened at 7 a.m. Lines were reported at many Twin Cities area polling locations early this morning. Skies were overcast most of the day but clear of rain.

Results will start trickling into the Secretary of State’s office by about 8:30 p.m., Ritchie says. He added that more significant results will come in before 11. Go to the SOS website at http://www.sos.state.mn.us/

Some delays in obtaining results may be experienced in St. Louis County where there is a writein campaign being waged for a House seat. Ritchie says when a candidate requests a count of writein votes, it must be done. He said three candidates have requested writein counts. “It looks like there is a high interest in this race,” Ritchie said. These ballots of course must be hand counted. “We are quite good at hand counting,” Ritchie remarked.

Minnesota has 4 million eligible voters with 3 million expected to vote in this 2012 election.

In respect to absentee ballots, Ritchie said slightly less have been returned in comparison to the presidential election of 2008. He attributed some of that difference to the redistricting this past year.

As of this morning, 257,000 absentee ballots had been received in Minnesota. The total was 292,000 in 2008. Ritchie predicts the absentee total will settle at around 282,000. Asked about military voters, Ritchie said most of the Red Bulls are home but missionaries, students, Peace Corps workers and people doing development work are still casting absentee ballots.

Same day registrations are still high and Ritchie expects today’s total to be over a half million. The total was 540,000 in 2008 and 580,000 in 2004.

Ritchie was asked if this election was more issue directed than other presidential elections. He said he doesn’t have a metric of which to compare but believed the U.S. Senate race was a low key race not having big spending. He said other races featured outside money.

Some 40 school districts have levies on the ballots today.

Two Minnesota constitutional issues on the ballot will likely force further discussion on what is appropriate putting into the constitution. Issues that have caused trauma include those centering around budgets and taxes, Ritchie remarked.

Ritchie talked about the flow of information and said legislative changes in years passed were followed by printing the detailed changes in the local newspaper. He said this practice should be renewed.

Asked what will happen if the voter identification amendment passes or fails, Ritchie said this is a question to be asked of the legislators. “This is legislative policy,” he said.

Election day is a special day and one where Minnesota voters have brought voting to a high level, Ritchie says. He reminds everyone that the voter turnout is an average and in many places of the state, the turnout is over 90 percent and in other parts it may be around 60 percent.

He is hopeful that the overall average some day can be reaching the 90 percent level.