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Push for absentee votes under way in Republican primary

As absentee balloting for the August primary gets under way, so does the fierce push by the campaigns of 1st District Republicans Mike Parry and Allen Quist to remind supporters to vote.

Traditionally, Minnesota's primaries were held in September. That changed two years ago when it was moved up a month to allow enough time for military and overseas voters to get their ballots back in time to be counted. But plenty of voters forget about the earlier primary.

"It's a huge mountain to climb and that is just the nature of it," said Julie Quist, who is managing her husband's campaign." I'm not opposed to having an early primary, but it does make get-out-the-vote substantially more of a challenge for everybody."

Absentee voting kicked off Friday. Since then, both the Parry and Quist campaigns have mobilized to remind supporters that if they will be out of town for the Aug. 14 primary, they should make sure to vote absentee. The two are battling for the chance to take on three-term DFL U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. In April, the 1st District Republican convention ended without an endorsement after a marathon 14 hours and 23 ballots.

Parry campaign manager Ben Golnik said the campaign has been busy identifying supporters and potential supporters and reminding them to vote absentee if they can't make it to the polls on primary day.


"Like any other election, it's all about turnout," he said.

If history is any guide, it's likely that a relatively small number of voters will determine whether Parry or Quist moves on to November. Olmsted County Elections Administrator Pam Fuller said about 20 percent of registered voters in Olmsted County typically turn out for primary elections. Usually, the county gets about 800 absentee ballots for the primary, compared to 10,000 during a presidential general election.

To try to get the word out, Quist's campaign is asking supporters to put the following note at the bottom of all their emails: "Republican Primary Tuesday, August 14th. Vote Quist."

Julie Quist said she believes absentee ballots will play a crucial role in determining which candidate ultimately wins.

"It's very important — more so now than before because people are still on vacation. They have their vacations planned. Sometimes they are gone for weeks at a time," she said.

The campaign is also putting the primary date on all of its fliers, town hall ads and on some of its parade campaign signs.

Republican Party of Olmsted County chairman Bruce Kaskubar said the local party will probably send out a couple of reminder emails about the primary election. He said there definitely is still an issue with people forgetting the primary is a month earlier.

"A lot of people just aren't conscious (about it)," he said. "August election? What are you talking about? At least it used to be after Labor Day."

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