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Steady stream at the polls: Voter turnout strong in state, county

Connie Vandermay/FOCUS Election officials counted the ballots after the polls closed Tuesday night at the Perham City Hall.

A remarkable 91 percent of all eligible voters in Otter Tail County poured into the polls Tuesday, mirroring reports of high turnout around Minnesota and the nation.

Election officials in the Perham area and at the county Government Services Center reported steady streams of people at polling places throughout the day. Some precincts had such unexpectedly high turnout that they had to pick up more ballots from the county.

"Turnout is very good," said County Auditor Wayne Stein as precinct results were turned in late Tuesday.

Final statewide turnout numbers were not available at press time, but Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had projected about a 78 percent turnout - keeping the state at the top of the nation's ranks.

In Perham and New York Mills, those percentages were 87 percent and 97 percent, respectively.

Overall, Otter Tail County voters leaned more conservatively than the state average. While President Barack Obama garnered about 52 percent of the vote in Minnesota, in the county, just 38 percent of voters favored Obama while nearly 60 percent voted for Mitt Romney.

And while the two proposed constitutional amendments failed with voters as a whole statewide, in Otter Tail County, voters were clearly in favor of both. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, 67 percent of voters in the county favored the marriage amendment and 57 percent favored voter ID.

County voters carried that conservative trend through their choices for state Senators and Representatives, preferring Republican candidates Bill Ingebrigtsen, Bud Nornes and Mary Franson over their DFL opponents.

Statewide, Bill Ingebrigtsen was the winner in a narrow race against Dan Skogen for the Minnesota Senate District 8, with 53 percent of the vote compared to Skogen's 47 percent.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Mary Franson and Bob Cunniff were tied in an incredibly close race for the Minnesota House District 8B, with Franson at 49.96 percent of the vote and Cunniff at 49.95 - a difference of just one vote.

Bud Nornes, with almost 63 percent of the vote, handily won the race for Minnesota House District 8A. His challenger, democrat Chester Nettestad, garnered 37 percent of the vote.

Where the county broke from its Republican preference was in its choice of Democratic Congressional candidate Collin Peterson. Fifty-six percent of county voters favored Peterson over his Republican challenger Lee Byberg.