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‘Very busy’ day at the polls

Marilyn and Peter Gandrud receive their ballots from election judge Bonnie Jevning Tuesday morning at Bemidji Town Hall. Monte Draper |Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Thousands of area residents turned out to vote Tuesday, filling the polling places and intently awaiting the results once the polls closed.

The first voter at Northwest Technical College arrived at 6:25 a.m., well before the polls opened at 7 a.m.

An election worker said about 50 people waited outside Bemidji City Hall as the polls opened. There was a steady stream of voters there just before noon, but the line was almost out the door at about 5 p.m., three hours before the polls closed.

Two-year-old Zayla Jenson was patient as her mother, Kandi, voted at Bemidji City Hall Tuesday. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

An election worker at the National Guard Armory said they had to register a lot of voters during the course of the day, mostly due to redistricting and student voters.

City clerk Kay Murphy visited various polling places throughout the day, reporting things were “very busy.”

At Northern Town Hall in Northern Township, the small parking lot was filled, leaving some people to park on the lawn and across the street.

Beltrami County Auditor/Treasurer Kay Mack said turnout throughout Election Day was “extremely good,” and a few precincts called her office concerned about running out of ballots.

One precinct had to use two paper ballots, she said.

In addition, Mack said there were more than 2,000 absentee ballots cast this year, exceeding the 1,888 in 2008.

The Allen family, from left, Chris, Anna, Amber and Joseph, sit at the Republican gathering. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

As the polls closed, supporters watched as results started rolling in at the Beltrami County Republicans’ viewing party. The crowd cheered as several southeastern states were called for Mitt Romney, while keeping another eye on crucial swing states like Florida and Ohio.

State Sen. John Carlson and Rep. Dave Hancock addressed the crowd minutes after the polls in Minnesota closed. Both expressed optimism about their chances.

At the DFL celebration at the Holiday Inn Express, people were watching television news coverage, cheering as Michigan, New York and New Jersey were called for Obama just after 8 p.m. More cheers rang out when Minnesota’s numbers came in showing support for President Obama.

Louise Jackson, an adjunct professor at Bemidji State University who retired two years ago after 30 years as a professor, said she became more involved in this election than in previous ones. When she voted Tuesday, she said she almost cried from the emotions she felt.

The constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman was a big topic of conversation among DFLers.

Bemidji State University student Meghan Jewett said the marriage amendment was the biggest incentive for her to vote. “The Constitution is there to protect freedom and rights, not restrict them,” she said.