9/14/2006 12:49:00 PM County sees huge turnout for primary
In one of the strongest primary election turnouts in recent memory, Cottonwood County voters reduced the number of recorder and commissioner candidates from six to four.
The top two candidates in each race advance to the general election on Nov. 7.
Advancing for the third district Cottonwood County commissioner race are Tom White, 207 votes, and Chuck Severson, 120 votes. Terry Tegels finished with 86 votes.
Kathy Kretsch and Leslie Makovsky will advance in the recorder race. Kretsch led all vote-getters with 720 votes, followed by Makovsky with 476 and Bonnie Willard with 194.
Meanwhile, County Auditor/Treasurer Jan Johnson was impressed with the voter turnout - 1,374 or 6,835 possible voters, or 20.1%.
"That's pretty good," Johnson said. "I remember a primary when we had a 3% turnout."
There were still people voting at the Windom princincts right up to the 8 p.m. deadline.
"I was kind of surprised by the turnout," said Rose Schwalbach, a Ward 1 election judge who worked her first local election in 1956.
Other judges agreed that the voter turnout was very strong. The consensus was that races for county recorder and commissioner had a big impact.
Marlene Nordquist, another judge, added: "I was told this morning we would probably have less than 175 voters and I know we've taken out more ballots than that," Nordquist said.
Meanwhile, Johnson said Cottonwood County's new election system received a strong test.
A new federal law says that townships must count votes electronically. Consequently, each site now has a ballot scanner and an "assistant voter." The assistant voter, which looks like a laptop computer, helps people with disabilities cast their votes. The vote scanners look like copy machines and accept each ballot, much like a ballot box.
Most townships teamed up wtih cities to set up polling sites. During this year's primary, there were just 11 polling placed in the county.
Thanks to the mostly-automated system, the ballots were counted and delivered by 10:15 p.m.
"Things went very well," Johnson said. "The fact that we had everything in so early was exceptional. Even on a primary election, it's usually midnight before they are all in."
Top vote-getters for state electoins were:
Governor - Tim Pawlenty (IR) 88%; Mike Hatch (DFL) 84%; Peter Hutchinson (IP) 56%.
Senate - Mark Kennedy (IR) 93%; Amy Klobuchar (DFL) 91%; Robert Fitzgerald (IP) 40%.
U.S. Rep. District 1 - Gil Gucnect (IR) 89%; Tim Walz (DFL) 100% (unopposed).