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Voters head to the polls

Voters go to the polls today to decide who will serve in the U.S., state, county, school and city offices.

Beltrami County Treasurer-Auditor Kay Mack said absentee voting has been moving along. She said she expects more than 1,200 absentee ballots, "which is pretty typical for a non-presidential year."

When the election includes presidential candidates, she said the number of absentee ballots totals about twice that many.

"It depends on when the deer season falls, too," she said. "This year, fortunately, the opener of deer season falls after the election."

In addition to absentee ballots, which voters must apply for, voters in 31 of Beltrami County precincts have no polling places, but must send in mailed ballots or vote in person at the Beltrami County Administrative Center. Most polls open at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., but polls in many rural areas open at 10 am. All polls close at 8 p.m. Mack said anyone unsure of his or her polling place can call her office at 333-8448.

"I would predict we would have it wrapped up by 1:30-2 a.m.," Mack said of the unofficial count.

U.S. House 7th District provides a choice among four candidates and 8th District offers three candidates.

There are also three candidates for Minnesota governor, the Republican, the DFL and Independence Party.

Voters in Bemidji will decide on a new mayor and three councilors. Those in Beltrami County District 1 will vote for a County Board member. There is also a contest for Beltrami County Sheriff. Voters in the Bemidji School District will choose three out of eight candidates for School Board.

In state elections, Senate District 2 and District 4 will hold contests, as well as House 4A, 4B and 2B races.

Two Ninth Judicial District judgeships are also up for election.

Beltrami County Attorney Tim Faver is running unopposed for re-election, and Mack is also up for election unopposed. She said she ran against an opponent in 1986, but has since been re-elected to seven terms without opposition. She said she finds elections exciting.

"They are stimulating, meaningful work," she said.

However, she said election time is also exhausting because all the other routine county administrative work also must continue.

Running elections require exacting detail, Mack said, and officials can be sure they stand behind the principle that every vote counts, not vote is unlawful and all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast they ballots.

"It's really solid," she said of the system.

Mack said the voting machines are tested and retested to make sure of accuracy. A recent proof of the solidity of the system was the lengthy recount for the Norm Coleman-Al Franken decision. Officials hand counted each ballot and found no difference from the machine tally, Mack said.