McFeely: Election disruption? Not in Moorhead

On a picture-perfect Election Day, polling locations free from controversy

Voters in south Moorhead found an efficient and clear process on Tuesday, Nov. 3, with no reports of harassment or intimidation. W. Scott Olsen / Special to The Forum

MOORHEAD — Maybe golfers had the right idea on Tuesday, Nov. 3. On a picture-perfect late fall day that eclipsed 70 degrees, Village Green Golf Course in south Moorhead was packed. Full parking lot, full fairways.

Election Day? What Election Day? Making pars and birdies was really what's important.

The weather — blue skies, sunshine, light wind — was a metaphor for a day that some feared might turn stormy.

With the nation divided along the Trump Fault Line, there were those who believed battleground states like Minnesota might turn into actual battlegrounds. Some businesses in Minneapolis boarded up their windows, expecting the hyper-partisan divide in America to turn into intimidation, protests or violence.

When Republican President Donald Trump called for his supporters to enlist as Election Day "poll watchers," implying that his Democratic foes weren't above cheating to win, some feared conflict at voting locations.


Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials used social media to remind Minnesotans that "no one can interfere with your right to vote." They included a toll-free number to call if voters experienced harassment, intimidation or interference.

But, thankfully, there was calm weather. There appeared to be no major issues in the state.

That included Moorhead.

"No, there was no voter intimidation," said Kylie Nelson, whose eyes seemed to flash with bemusement above her mask when answering a question. "That's not going to happen here. Everybody is chilling."

Poll workers measure social distancing space in south Moorhead before the polls open Tuesday, Nov. 3. W. Scott Olsen / Special to The Forum

Kylie and her mother Kristi had just cast their ballots at Triumph Lutheran Brethren Church in south Moorhead. Kylie, a 20-something wearing a T-shirt that said simply "VOTE," chose Democrat Joe Biden. Kristi voted for Trump.

As they stood in a nearly empty parking lot in the sunshine, the Nelsons explained how this was the second time each had voted. Kristi said she'd never voted before 2016 and only did so because Kylie, then a first-time voter as a teenager, "dragged" her to the polls. Now the mother-daughter combo plan to vote together in every presidential election.


Their experience was quick and easy, with the polling location inside the church well-marked with Xs made with yellow tape on the floor for social distancing and a spacious room for voting. There was a pile of pens voters could use once and a stack of light-blue masks if a voter showed up without one.

The story was the same at other Moorhead voting locations.

A short line of four or five voters formed periodically just before noon at the Moorhead Center Mall polling spot, across the open courtyard from Jay's Smokin' BBQ, but quickly dissipated. It took voters less than 10 minutes to vote at that time.

"It was really easy. Well set-up, well run. Very quick," said Wendy Hammond of north Moorhead, who said she voted for Trump. "That was my biggest hesitation — a long line. I would've waited and voted anyway, but I hate wasting time standing in line."

Why didn't she vote by mail and save the worry?

"Voting in person is more secure than doing it by mail. I don't totally trust that," Hammond said. "That, and people are still campaigning. News might break after you cast your vote. I wouldn't have voted for Biden anyway, but we just found out about the Hunter Biden thing with his laptop and that's something that could change people's minds."

Good weather made voting easy Tuesday, Nov. 3, in Moorhead, Minn. W. Scott Olsen / Special to The Forum


Center Mall head election judge Laurie Christianson said there were no shenanigans at her location.

"I haven't seen anything. Everyone has been very cordial. Everyone has been very patient," she said.

The polling locations at Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College at midday were quiet as a library. The MSUM location in Comstock Memorial Union had seen only 48 voters by 11:30 a.m. while the Concordia location set up inside the school's basketball arena, Memorial Auditorium, had 52 by noon.

There were no signs of trouble at either location.

"I don't know what is going on anywhere else in the country, but Minnesota has a long history of safe elections," MSUM election judge Steve Beitelspacher said.

At the Clay County courthouse, the biggest issue appeared to be a burned-out light bulb a worker was trying to fix as voters filed in early Tuesday morning. They had to navigate his ladder before checking in with poll workers.

North Moorhead voter Diane Kahl reported no problems. She stopped briefly outside the courthouse after casting her ballot.

"Very well organized, no trouble and I didn't have to wait even one minute," she said. "They have enough workers that if you did have an issue they'd walk you through it."


Kahl declined to say who she'd voted for.

"Wait until my husband comes. He'll gladly tell you," she said.

And Kahl was off to her car, hurrying across a parking lot with no protesters, poll watchers or intimidators to be seen.

There was only brilliant sunshine, on a rare Election Day in Minnesota that was as perfect for golf as it was for voting.

Opinion by Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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