Narrowing the fields: Tuesday’s primaries sets up several local, state races this fall

Gazette photo by Erik Sandin
Voters can cast absentee ballots for Tuesday’s primaries from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater and county service centers in Cottage Grove, Forest Lake and Woodbury.

Minnesotans take the first step toward the Nov. 6 general election when they vote Tuesday to settle several federal, state and local primary races.

Washington County residents will vote in Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate and Congressional District 4 and Republican primaries in Congressional District 6, and state Senate District 39. Residents in county Board of Commission District 2 have three candidates seeking that seat and residents of Stillwater City Council Ward 2 have three people vying to reach the November ballot.

And if recent election trends stay true to form, only a small percentage of county voters will decide the candidates advancing to the fall election.

“In the last two elections, 2008 and 2010, we’ve seen 10 to 17 percent turnout. That’s countywide,” said Jennifer Wagenius, director of the county’s Property Records and Taxpayer Services Office.

Despite the outlook for a low voter turnout Tuesday, Wagenius said the number of people casting absentee ballots is rising in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary.

“We do see a bit of an increase right before an election,” she said. “We have seen a slight increase. But the primary is low turnout.”

Voters must meet one of several conditions to cast absentee ballots:

n They will be absent from the precinct on voting day.

n They have an illness or disability.

n They have a religious discipline or observe a religious holiday.

n Serving as an election judge in another precinct.

n Or are eligible under an emergency declared by the governor or quarantine declared by federal of state governments.

Voters have three days to cast absentee ballots. Wagenius said absentee ballots can be cast until 5 p.m. This evening at the County Government Center in Stillwater; from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Government Center and county service centers in Cottage Grove, Forest Lake and Woodbury, and 8  a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at the Government Center.

Most polling places open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Wagenius said the county Canvas Board meets at 1 p.m. Aug. 17 to certify Tuesday’s results. Canvas Board members are county Commissioners Gary Kriesel and Autumn Lehrke, assistant county administrator and treasurer Kevin Corbid, Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliana Stephens and the county court administrator. The meeting is in Room 5590 on the fifth floor of the Government Center.