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Cass, Clay auditors project high turnout

Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir hopes voters will keep a few things in mind when heading to the polls Tuesday. Remember to bring ID. Know ahead of time how you're going to vote. And please, please be patient. "Get unruly, we might make you a...

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Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir hopes voters will keep a few things in mind when heading to the polls Tuesday.

Remember to bring ID.

Know ahead of time how you're going to vote.

And please, please be patient.

"Get unruly, we might make you an election worker," he quipped last week.

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Montplaisir and his Clay County counterpart, Lori Johnson, both expect a hectic election with high turnout Tuesday.

North Dakota, Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia had the highest voter turnout in the nation in 2000, at around 70 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Montplaisir predicts 60,000 to 70,000 of Cass County's roughly 93,000 eligible voters will cast ballots, compared with 59,394 during the 2000 presidential election.

As of 4 p.m. Friday, 10,859 residents had voted early or by absentee ballot, compared with about 7,000 four years ago. Last week, 400 to 600 people per day were casting ballots at the early voting precinct in the Cass County Courthouse.

"I think the early voting precinct has brought some people out that otherwise would not have voted absentee," Montplaisir said.

The tight presidential race is drawing a lot of voters, and Fargo residents will likely hit the polls in force Tuesday to vote on proposed smoking bans, he said. Clay County also is gearing up for an "extremely high" turnout, Johnson said.

"I think there's huge interest in the presidential race this year, obviously," she said.

During the last presidential election, 23,537 Clay County residents cast ballots. Johnson expects turnout to reach 26,000 to 27,000 Tuesday.

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Johnson said she also expects 2,200 to 2,500 absentee votes, which in the past have numbered about 1,500.

Locally, the race for Minnesota House District 9A between incumbent Republican Morrie Lanning and DFL candidate Lauri Winterfeldt-Shanks should be a big draw, Johnson said.

Two contested County Commission races could also boost turnout, she said.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in both counties, except for a few Clay County townships that don't open until 10 a.m.

For the first time in a general election, North Dakotans are required to present identification to vote. The ID must show the voter's name and address.

Voters who can't produce a valid ID can still vote if they fill out an affidavit certifying their name and address, Montplaisir said.

The new requirement could create longer lines at the polls, especially in Fargo precincts with a lot of apartments and college students, Montplaisir said. He urged residents to vote at off-peak hours such as 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., instead of at peak hours such as 5 p.m.

In Minnesota, new residents who are required to show ID should have received a letter in the mail telling them to bring it, Johnson said.

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Both counties will use electronic ballot scanners to tally the votes.

Cass County had hoped to be able to send results from its 59 precincts to the courthouse via modem, but there wasn't enough time to test the system, Montplaisir said. Instead, workers will deliver the scanners' "smart cards" to the courthouse after the polls close.

Cass County's voting results will also be delayed because poll workers must examine every ballot to ensure all votes for Cass County Commission write-in candidate Frank Anderson are counted.

Thirty-three precincts in Clay County have electronic scanners, while the other 21 precincts will have their ballots counted electronically at the courthouse, Johnson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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