Voter casts absentee ballot in person
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Democratic Congressional hopefuls Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark and Rick Nolan spent Monday looking for undecided voters as the clock ticked down to their DFL primary in northeastern Minnesota.
The winner of Tuesday's primary will square off against freshman Republican incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack in the 8th District general election in November.
In 2010, Cravaack became the first Republican to capture that northeastern Minnesota seat in decades, when he denied Congressman Jim Oberstar a 19th term.
In the southern Minnesota's 1st Congressional District, State Sen. Mike Parry and former State Rep. Allen Quist are duking it out in the GOP primary. The winner of that contest will take on Democratic incumbent three-term incumbent Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato.
Poll Finder Website
The Secretary of State's office has set up a special website, at www.MNvotes.org to help voters find their polling places. The site also enables voters to verify that they're still registered, track absentee ballots and learn the rules of same-day registration.
"Some things have changed with redistricting, but also, a lot of folks have moved around due to the economy," Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie told KARE.
"With our site you can put in your address and it will tell you where to go to vote. You can also find out if your registration is up to date."
Ritchie predicts turnout slightly below 15 percent of eligible voters, a bit higher in the congressional contests.
"In general elections in November we're the highest in the nation, usually five to six percent higher than the number two state," Ritchie remarked. "But we traditionally have had a relatively low participation in primary."
Election System Evolves
Minnesota moved the primary from September to August in 2010, but attempts to move it to June have failed thus far. The August primary was necessary to comply with new federal regulations designed to give military voters overseas more time to return their general election ballots.
"That earlier date has turned out to be incredibly successful, in terms of making sure that ballots that are requested, sent out to Baghdad, Kuwait City, Bangkok, you name it, are able to be returned in time."
Another change ushered in 2010 mandates that absentee ballot applications and ballots are reviewed and counted at a central location in each county, rather than being delivered to their home precincts.
"That system is faster, more organized and more professional," Ritchie explained. "It also allows us to catch small errors somebody made; maybe they forgot the date or some little thing."
Those ballots are also more user friendly than they were in the past when thousands of voters had their ballot rejected because of errors. The issue of rejected absentees came to the forefront in 2008 during the Franken-Coleman recount, as attorneys for both sides looked to reinstate ballots that had been improperly rejected.
The congressional races are the hottest tickets in Tuesday's primary. The day also features multiple candidates in 40 legislative districts and two nonpartisan primaries for the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In the west metro area two legislative primaries have attracted extra attention.
In District 33-B, Rep. Steve Smith of Mound, a Republican who has served at the Capitol since 1990 faces, a primary challenge from Tea Party backer Cindy Pugh of Chanhassen.
Smith ran afoul of legislative leadership and the state GOP when he voted against the proposed marriage amendment, restricting marriage to one man and one woman.
Sen. Julianne Ortman, a Chaska attorney who has been in the senate since 2003, also faces a challenge from the right in the form of Bruce Schwichtenberg of Carver. The auto mechanic has been active in Republican politics for years, and worked on Tom Emmer's gubernatorial campaign in 2010.
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