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ELECTION 2016: Tons of turnout: Bemidji, Minnesota have strong showings at the polls

BEMIDJI--Minnesota once again led the nation in voter turnout in the Nov. 8 general election, continuing its streak of having more than 70 percent of the population participate in presidential years.

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BEMIDJI-Minnesota once again led the nation in voter turnout in the Nov. 8 general election, continuing its streak of having more than 70 percent of the population participate in presidential years.

When all the votes were tallied, 74.7 percent of the eligible population had submitted ballots in the North Star state, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State's website. That trend continued at the local level, too, with 65.4 percent of the voting population in Beltrami County participating and 94 percent in the city of Bemidji.

"We have a community that's dialed in to the issues," said Nate Mathews, Bemidji city manager. "They want to participate, they want a say and they're active."

The 94 percent who voted matched 2012's number and once again came in ahead of the 88 percent in 2008.

"We have a lot of people who are just excited about participating in civic engagement, whether that's at the voting booth or even just communicating with us at City Hall," Mathews said.

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At the county level, the 64 percent was just slightly under the 2012 amount of 65.4 percent. However, 21,718 people still submitted ballots, making for some busy weeks at the county auditor's office.

"This year we were a lot busier up here at our office. In the last two weeks we averaged about 100 people per day coming in to vote," said Jeff Volk, Beltrami County assistant auditor-treasurer. "I think a lot of people were paying attention this year to the election and they turned out because they wanted to make sure their voice was heard."

The surge in early voting experienced in the county and across the state was likely caused by a reform in 2013 that allowed for absentee ballots to be submitting without requiring an excuse to not vote on Election Day.

The result was more than 674,000 Minnesotans voting early this year, an increase from the 2012 number of 235,808.

The early ballots and Election Day voting combined in Minnesota to have a first place finish well ahead of the next state in terms of turnout. In second place was New Hampshire with 70.3 percent and third was Maine with 69.9 percent.

Minnesota as also well ahead of surrounding states in the Midwest. Other regional turnout percentages included:

• Wisconsin with 68.3 percent.

• North Dakota with 59.2 percent.

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• South Dakota with 58.7 percent.

• Iowa with 68.6 percent.

• Nebraska with 61.7 percent.

All of those aforementioned states finished ahead of the national average, though, as the country's turnout came to 58.1 percent.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
Matthew Liedke is a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is originally from International Falls and now resides in Bemidji. He's a 2009 graduate of Rainy River Community College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead. At the Pioneer, he covers government, politics, health and economic development. He can be reached at (218) 333-9791 or by email at mliedke@bemidjipioneer.com.
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