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Olmsted County voter turnout certified at 65%

The canvassing board verified local county and state results as the review process for Nov. 8 election continues.

Olmsted County canvassing board2.jpg
Olmsted County Elections Manager Luke Turner provides a report to members of the county's canvassing board Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at the county election center.
Randy Petersen / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Nearly two-thirds of registered voters cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election, dipping slightly from the last midterm elections.

With 68,440 ballots cast, 65% of registered voters participated in the election, compared to 67.4% in 2018.

“We went significantly higher in 2020, but the number seemed to snap back,” Olmsted County Elections Manager Luke Turner said as the county’s canvassing board was preparing to review results.

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The county saw an 86.2% turnout in 2020.

Turner said 15,911 absentee ballots were processed as part of the overall vote, which is similar to what was seen four years ago.

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The canvassing board verified state and county reports to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, as well as the fact that there were no certified write-ins for county and state races.

The review was confirmed by County Director of Property Records and Licensing Mary Blair-Hoeft, Olmsted Court Administrator Hans Holland, County Board Chairman Mark Thein and Deputy County Administrator Pete Giesen, who sat in for a second county commissioner, since six of the seven districts were on the Nov. 8 ballot.

County Administrator Hiedi Welsch also participated in the review, since Mayor Kim Norton was unable to fill a seat due to being on the ballot, and no other city representative attended. She, however, did not sign the official confirmation.

“Only a quorum of three is required,” Turner said, meaning Blair-Hoeft, Holland and Thein could have confirmed the reports without the added participants.

The board review was also observed by seven community members, which Turner said is a first since he joined the county’s election team in 2020. Observers included members of the Olmsted County Elections Integrity Group, as well as two affiliated with the DFL party.

The Nov. 8 election saw a 64% turnout among Rochester voters, which included 2,260 voters who registered at the polls on Election Day.

The purpose of the canvas is to review the vote totals, certify the results and declare the winners of the election. To do that, the appointed officials review the tabulated results from the county’s voting machines to reports sent to the Secretary of State’s Office.

While they have the ability to check as many of the county’s reports from 110 precincts as they want, the canvassing board must review at least four precincts. They checked 10 Thursday.

Turner said the local review process will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, at the Olmsted County Election Center, 2122 Campus Drive SE, when election judges conduct a post-election review of four randomly selected precincts, which were drawn from a basket by canvassing officials Thursday.

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The reviews will be for Pine Island, New Haven Township, Rochester precinct 9 in Ward 3 and Rochester precinct 11 in Ward 2.

The four precincts account for approximately 2,800 of the 68,440 ballots in the Nov. 8 election.

Rochester resident Diana Friemann interrupted the canvassing process Thursday to question why all ballots weren’t being reviewed and requested information about seeking a recount.

Turner said the county complies with state statutes set by the Minnesota Legislature, which requires counties with more than 100,000 registered voters to review at least four precincts, or 3% of the total precincts in the county, whichever is greater.

He said if disparities are found in any of the reviewed precincts Tuesday, additional precincts would be reviewed and could lead to a full recount, if disparities continue to be found.

A recount for individual races can also be requested by candidates, but the cost of election judge time and other expenses would be at the individual’s expense, unless the vote gap between candidates is less than 0.5% of the total vote in the race.

Turner said he anticipates Tuesday’s review of the four precincts in Olmsted County will take hours to complete,

The post-election review from all Minnesota counties must be completed before the Secretary of State canvassing can be completed.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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