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Low turnout expected for Tuesday's Minnesota primary

ST. PAUL – Minnesotans should not need to wait in long lines at Tuesday’s primary election.

With a few exceptions where local races are exciting voters, low turnout is predicted despite two hotly contested statewide races.

Four Republicans are competing for the right to face Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton as he runs for his second term. The GOP contenders are businessman Scott Honour, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, former state Rep. Marty Seifert and state Rep. Kurt Zellers.

In an unexpected state auditor’s race, incumbent Rebecca Otto faces former state Rep. Matt Entenza, who is using his own wealth to fund an upset attempt after entering the race 15 minutes before the deadline for filing paperwork.

The state’s voters do not appear to have jumped on a new early-voting law. Secretary of state figures show fewer people cast absentee ballots this year than in the last governor’s race four years ago, even though for the first time, voters now do not need a reason to vote early. In the past, voters needed to say they had a valid excuse, such as not being home on election day.

Few are making predictions about the GOP governor contest, partly because the party has not had such a primary contest for years. Republicans generally go with the candidate they endorse in their party convention, which this year was Johnson.

But Seifert and Zellers are relying on their years of public service to compete with Johnson and the party machine. Honour hopes his outsider position is what voters want.

ONLINE PDFs: Moorhead voting precincts and Clay County voting precincts

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Minnesota’s chief election administrator, predicted a turnout in the “10 to 15 percent range, which is average.”

Since 2000, Minnesota primary election turnouts have ranged from 8 percent to 17 percent.

DFL Chairman Ken Martin said he expects just over 6 percent of the state’s 3.1 million registered voters to show up.

Republican National Committeeman Chris Tiedeman said he knows why turnout will be low: “It’s August, and everybody’s sitting at the lake.” Primaries used to be in September.

Despite the turnout expectations, even candidates with token opposition are encouraging voters to hit the polls today.

“It’s a good dry run for the massive turnout operation we’ll need in order to win this November,” U.S. Sen. Al Franken wrote to his supporters Monday. “And, maybe most of all, it’s your civic duty. There are, on the other hand, pretty much zero good reasons not to vote. It will only take a few minutes out of your day.”

Most polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, although times may vary in some rural precincts and in others voting is conducted by mail.

Contributing to this story was the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a Forum News Service media partner.