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Voting turnout remains steady, DFL loses ground in southwest Minnesota counties

WORTHINGTON -- Strong turnout, early voting and a lack of roadblocks at the polls helped many southwest Minnesota counties hit 90 percent voter participation among registered voters.

WORTHINGTON -- Strong turnout, early voting and a lack of roadblocks at the polls helped many southwest Minnesota counties hit 90 percent voter participation among registered voters.

  Minnesota’s statewide voter turnout was at 74 percent for the 2016 general election, although that statistic uses voting eligible population rather than registered voters and makes the number much smaller.

  Nobles County saw 91.9 percent of registered voters vote, a slightly smaller turnout than 2012 and a “very good” number, according to County Auditor Beth Van Hove. None of the county auditors - tasked with managing elections in their counties - reported problems on voting day.

  “At about 90 percent, we did better than 2014 and on par with 2012,” Pipestone County Auditor Tyler Reisch said. “Things ran pretty smooth. It’s always nice to see so many people out and about voting for their candidates of choice.”

  Murray County Auditor Heidi Winter said a couple of precincts allowed voters to mail in their ballots to the courthouse - those precincts came close to 100 percent turnout among registered voters. Overall, 87 percent of registered voters participated at the polls.

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  “There’s so many options available to voters in our county,” Winter said. “I think that’s why we get such high numbers, because it’s so easy to vote.”

  Minnesota was the top state by voter turnout for the last three elections, and may make it a fourth this time around. While some states try to restrict voting with voter ID laws, Minnesota has only continued to encourage it with same-day registration and, as of 2014, absentee ballots that do not require an excuse - something Cottonwood County Auditor Jan Johnson heard much positive feedback about.

  “I had an awful lot of comments complimenting the new no-excuse early voting rule,” Johnson said. “People seem to appreciate that; it’s helpful for a lot of people.”

  Johnson also noted that the state and federal results leaned much more toward Republican candidates than in the past.

  “This county generally has a lot of votes for Democrats, that’s always been the norm here,” Johnson said. “This year, the difference is huge.”

  While Cottonwood County hasn’t been overwhelmingly supportive of DFL candidates the last few years, it gave DFL candidates Amy Klobuchar and Collin Peterson comfortable wins in 2012.

  Meanwhile, Tim Walz, a Mankato Democrat who represents southern Minnesota in Washington, received nearly 45 percent of the vote in 2012 but just 34 percent this time around. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, barely edged out DFL challenger Alan Oberloh 51 to 49 percent in 2012, but cruised past Brian Abrahamson 71 to 29 percent this year.

  Walz won several counties in 2012, including Nobles and Jackson, but lost them this November.

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  The trend continues with presidential candidates. Barack Obama received nearly 42 percent of Cottonwood County votes in 2012, while Hillary Clinton was blown out by Donald Trump - garnering 29 percent to his 64.

  This was the case in every southwest Minnesota county. Nobles County gave Clinton nearly 32 percent compared to Obama’s 44. Rock County also reported a 12-point loss for the Democratic candidate - 40 to 28. In Jackson, Obama had 42 percent while Clinton received just 27 percent.

  In 2008, Obama beat John McCain in Murray County by 25 votes. In 2016, Clinton lost to Trump by 26 percentage points.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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