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Hubbard County has high voter turnout

Townships saw an early stream of voters this morning on Election Day. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Ninety-four percent of Hubbard County voters showed up at the polls or voted absentee by Tuesday, eclipsing the state's 76 percent voter turnout rate.

"We've always had a high turnout but this is awesome," said Auditor-Treasurer Pam Heeren.

She and her staff were still sorting out ballots and issues from Tuesday night's election, so she was hesitant to say if Hubbard County was at or near the highest voting rate in the country.

The county has 12,362 registered voters, not 12,713 as listed on the Secretary of State's website. Of those, 11,616 voted, giving the county a 93.97 percent turnout.

"That's close to 94 percent," Heeren said. The 11,616 voters included 1,465 absentee ballots.

Hubbard County voters were able to cast a ballot Saturday and Monday, likely boosting that turnout.

Additionally, Clay, Hendrickson, Thorpe and Steamboat River townships and the city of Laporte opted for mail-in ballots.

But Election Day was not glitch-free.

"Some (voters in the mail ballot precincts) thought they could either vote by mail or go to the polls," Heeren said. "They didn't understand that. Others didn't understand what they were (mailed ballots) and they threw them away.

"I think maybe we sent them out almost too early because they didn't understand what they were.

"There was just some confusion and this being the first year, a lot of that will straighten itself out," she said.

When those mail ballot voters showed up at their regular polling place they learned they had to drive to Park Rapids to vote.

That made for some unhappy campers, Heeren told the county board Wednesday morning.

Steve and Betty Norlin said when they voted in Nevis, election judges were warning people not to leave the amendments ovals blank or it would count as a "no" vote.

Technically that was what the ballot also told them, but the Norlins were concerned that election judges were saying anything and reported the incident to the attorney general's office.

By law, they should not have advised voters at all, Norlins said they had just heard on public radio.

Hubbard County voters were independent minded.

They supported the Romney-Ryan ticket by 57.48 percent over 41 percent for Obama.

They also supported 8th Dist. Rep. Chip Cravaack by a narrower margin. Cravaack was defeated in his bid for a second term.

But they also supported DFL candidate Rod Skoe, who won his bid for his Senate Dist. 2 seat. They similarly helped propel DFL candidate John Persell to victory over Republican incumbent Larry Howes in Dist. 5A. The two incumbents were redistricted so they had to face each other.

Republican candidate Steve Green won the Dist. 2B seat over former DFL Rep. Brita Sailer. DFL candidate Roger Erickson won the House Dist. 2A seat against Dave Hancock.

Heeren said there was the usual write-in protest, where disgruntled voters indicate "none of the above."

"Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck" were favorite write-in candidates, she told the board.

In the Park Rapids mayor's race, the write-ins may have been a factor in the outcome.

There was an 11-vote difference in Nancy Carroll's total compared to Pat Mikesh, the councilman who ousted her.

Heeren was asked to pull those write-in ballots. One of the 11 wrote in a fictional character named Fred Smith. The other 10 write-ins were for nobody at all. Voters had circled the oval indicating a write-in, but then didn't fill in the rest of the ballot.

In the Hubbard County District 2 board seat, Matt Dotta won with 937 votes over Jason "Buck" Johnson with 785 votes.

One of the big upsets of the night, in addition to the mayoral race, was in Hubbard County's District 4 board seat, in which incumbent Lyle Robinson was defeated. He's served 25 years on the board.

He was stoic in his defeat.

"I think if people knew the job ahead of them they wouldn't apply," he said. "And so we must keep it a secret."

But people who know Robinson well said he seemed resigned to the fact that this would be his last race. He agreed.

"I told Lynne (his wife) we need to be aware that this is our last year and we need to be proud," he said, adding that "any good politician" must prepare for a loss.

"I have no regrets," he said. But he believes an anti-incumbent fever swept the electorate.

"It wasn't just me," he said. "It was the mayor of Park Rapids, of Akeley, of Bemidji. Anybody in office, just vote 'em out. The new guys will do better. You can't compete with that mentality."

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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