Beltrami County begins casting ballots as polls open
BEMIDJI - Election workers greeted a steady stream of voters early today at polling sites throughout the area, with several sites seeing large early turnouts.
The first voter arrived about 6:25 a.m. at Northwest Technical College, the polling site for Ward 5., well in advance of the 7 a.m. opening, and about 200 voters cast their ballots by 8:30 a.m.
At Bemidji City Hall, 50 voters stood in line as the polls opened.
NTC lection workers said they'd seen a steady stream in what is expected to be a heavy turnout on Election Day, culminating a long campaign for federal, state and local races.
At NTC, the stream of voters appeared constant, with residents waiting patiently for voter booths to open. The long list of candidates - from president to water and soil conservation officers - were joined on the ballot by two state amendments, a school operating referendum and a question to place a recall process into Bemidji's charter.
Northern Town Hall was filled with residents, to the point that the some people had to park on the lawn next to the parking lot or across the street. Almost 1,000 people had voted there by 11:45 a.m.Almost 400 people had voted at Bemidji City Hall by 11 a.m. An election worker there said a number of people were waiting outside before the polls opened at 7 a.m. City clerk Kay Miurphy was visiting the various polling places throughout the day. She said everything was going smoothly in the first few hours of voting, but things were "very busy." About a dozen students were lined up to register to vote at the American Indian Resource Center on the Bemidji State University campus just before noon. About 330 people had voted there by 11:30 a.m. Nearly 1,800 Beltrami County residents cast absentee ballots as of Monday afternoon, and with more expected in the mail today, Auditor/Treasurer Kay Mack said she was confident the county would surpass the 1,888 absentee ballots in 2008. She said her office was planning for voter turnout to reach as high as 94 percent this year, up from the 88.4 percent of Beltrami County residents who cast ballots in the last presidential election. In 2008, there were 22,313 votes cast among the 25,347 people registered as of election morning.
Here's the presidential results for Beltrami County from the previous three elections:
2008: Barack Obama 54.1 percent, John McCain 43.9 percent
2004: John Kerry 50.1 percent, George Bush 48.5 percent
2000: George Bush 48. 5 percent, Al Gore 42.4 percent
The Minnesota secretary of state's website, www.sos.state.mn.us, is filled with information about how and where to vote. The website also has a tool that lets you punch in your ZIP code and street number so you can see the choices you'll have when you get to your polling place.