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Election judges report great turnout, more young voters in Heartland Lakes Area

Election officials in Hubbard County and Menahga reflect on Election Day 2022.

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Hubbard County Auditor Kay Rave, at right, reviews Election Day tallies from Todd Township with election judges Dorothy Pierzinski and Stephanie Kern.
Shannon Geisen/Park Rapids Enterprise
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Late Tuesday night, after the polls closed at 8 p.m., township election judges trekked to the Hubbard County Government Center, bearing ballots, thumb drives and summary printouts.

The summary statements, one per precinct, shows how many people were registered at 7 a.m. on Nov. 8, how many registered on Election Day and how many voted. It also reports how many ballots were received.

Brian Ford has served on the Crow Wing Lake Lake Township Board for six years. He and fellow election judge Larry Smith delivered the township’s ballots to Hubbard County Auditor Kay Rave.

“It’s a duty,” said Smith of his more than 30 years as a Crow Wing Lake Lake Township election judge. “My master’s thesis was on service. It involves more than being an election judge, but it’s part of it. I encouraged my kids to do the same when I was teaching.”

Smith said there weren’t any questions from voters. “Everybody that came in, they knew what they were doing.”

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Ford said, “We had a lot of new voters this time. We were pretty surprised. A lot of new, young voters that have moved in.”

He hopes they will get involved with township government. There’s a need for greater participation, Ford said, but it can be difficult to find volunteers, particularly in townships with tiny populations.

Fern Township treasurer Amy Mart has been on the town board for 21 years. Compared to other elections, Mart said there was “a little bit better turnout than expected.”

Mart urges everyone to vote. “I feel like everything went pretty good, and we do a good job trying to keep everything clear and running smoothly.”

Like the other election officials, Mart met with Rave “to make sure everything is there and every ballot is accounted for,” she explained.

Dorothy Pierzinski, Stephanie Kern and Bob Cadrow served as election judges for Todd Township.

“I’ve been an election judge for a long time,” Pierzinski said. Recruited by her daughter and niece, she previously worked in Brainerd, then decided to volunteer in Park Rapids after moving here.

“It was steady all day. It was fun,” Pierzinksi told Rave.

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Hubbard Township also saw young voters registering for the first time, according to Denny Sleen. This was his first time as an election judge. Sleen felt compelled to be involved rather than leaving it up to somebody else.

“The thing I was most surprised about is the redundancy and the wordiness of the instructions. It just seemed more complicated than it needed to be,” Sleen said.

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Carol Ann Cleveland and Larry Murphy, longtime election judges for the city of Menahga, reported a good turnout at city hall.
Shannon Geisen/Enterprise<br/>

Brit-Awn Hess, an election judge for Menahga City Hall, reported on Tuesday afternoon, “It’s been nonstop. It’s been great.”

Co-election judges Carol Ann Cleveland and Larry Murphy agreed.

“We’ve had lines. Really busy,” Cleveland said, adding voter turnout seemed better than other midterm elections.

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Blueberry Town Hall
Shannon Geisen/ Park Rapids Enterprise

Shar Lusti has served as election judge for Blueberry Township for many years. She said turnout was comparable to a general election.

No voters expressed any concerns at Blueberry Town Hall, she continued.

Lusti has witnessed technological advances in voting equipment. “In the olden days, it used to be you’d put the ballot in a box, and if it was spoiled, you didn’t get to revote,” she recalled.

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An elderly gentleman voting at Park Rapids City Hall had his ballot spoiled when the DS200 ballot counter recognized that he had accidentally filled in both circles in one race. He had the opportunity to fill out a new ballot.

A variety of issues inspire voters

Asked what issues prompted him to exercise his right to vote, Robert Eischens of Nevis said, “The main issue is the governor, and the other issue is because of all the crime and stuff that’s going on in the big cities. It’s unbelievable. We just need a change.”

“I just feel like this whole country is kind of sliding backwards in the last couple years,” said Austin DeRoo of Nevis. “People need to get out and voice their opinions and fix the damage that’s been done by not voicing their opinions.”

Isaiah Hahn of Park Rapids said he is concerned about natural resources, but also, “being in the education field, education is my number one.”

Also in Park Rapids, Ann Niedzielski said the race for Minnesota governor and other key state offices were a priority, “and also local things like the school board.”

“I just always feel it’s important for the people to have our voice and speak whatever our truth is,” said Dawn Leeseberg of Park Rapids.

“The economy’s big,” said Dave Lehrke of Park Rapids. “Immigration, illegal immigration is huge. And I think the crime rate across the nation.”

“More than anything, just my duty as a citizen,” said Paul Schroeder in Nevis. “A lot of things are going on, obviously, around our world. You can sit and complain about it, or you can go out there and make a vote.”

Vote totals are unofficial until the certification of election results.

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