Primary Election

An election judge wearing a face shield awaits primary election voters at a Minnesota polling site Aug. 11. (Dan Gunderson/MPR News)

Tuesday’s election was the first big election in Minnesota since the COVID-19 pandemic upended normal ways of life, including how people voted. Though many voters still showed up to vote in-person Tuesday, hundreds of thousands cast absentee ballots — a record-setting total.

“We knew we were going to have an increased demand for voting through the mail when the pandemic hit … but I don’t think anyone foresaw the tidal wave we have,” said Hennepin County elections manager Ginny Gelms.

More than 423,000 absentee ballots had been returned as of Monday — more than the 294,797 voters who voted in the primary four years ago. Another 425,000 or so absentee ballots have been requested but not yet returned.

State law says mail-in ballots can count as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and are received by Thursday. With potentially hundreds of thousands of votes still left to come in, final results may not be available until Friday, rather than on election night as is usually the case. But many races saw big enough leads Tuesday night that late-arriving absentee ballots seemed unlikely to change the results.

While record numbers of voters cast their ballots by mail, thousands still turned out to vote in person Tuesday, a process that seemed to go pretty smoothly in most places.

Charles Beitlich voted at the community center in New Ulm Tuesday, where registration tables had plastic shields, the floor had stickers marking 6-foot distances, and hand sanitizer was abundant. He said the process was straightforward.

“I’ve always done in-person voting in the past. So I’d like to continue doing in-person voting,” Beitlich said.

Filing period ends

A number of mayoral, council and school district offices across Nicollet County and nearby Le Sueur County are up for election this year and interested parties had until Aug. 11 to file as candidates. The city of St. Peter conducts most of its local elections on non-presidential election years, so there are no races in 2020, although residents will have county races to vote on. The filing period for county races was from May 19 to June 2, so candidates on the ballot were already locked in for those contests.

Here is a summary of the seats in the area up for election this year.

Nicollet County

There are three commissioner seats up for election in Nicollet County in 2020. The incumbents in all three seats are running to retain their spots.

In District 1, Marie Dranttel, of St. Peter, is running unopposed to retain her seat. In District 3, Denny Kemp, of North Mankato, is also running unopposed to retain his seat. And in District 5, incumbent John Luepke, of Courtland, is up against Bruce Beatty, of rural New Ulm.

There are also three Soil and Water District supervisor seats up for election in 2020. Timothy Braun, Bruce Hulke and Donald Hermanson are each running unopposed for those seats.

Le Sueur County

There are two commissioner seats up for election in Le Sueur County in 2020. The incumbents in both are running unopposed.

In District 1, David Gliszinski, of New Prague, is running to keep his seat. And in District 3, John King, of Le Sueur, is running to keep his seat.

There are also three Soil and Water District supervisor seats up for election in 2020. Glendon Braun, Cletus Gregor and Jim Struck are each running unopposed for those seats.

Nicollet

The mayor and two council member at-large seats are up for election in Nicollet in 2020. Fred Froelich, current mayor of Nicollet, was the lone filer for his position. Mary Wels and Matt Anthony, the councilors with expiring terms, were also the only ones to file for their seats.

Courtland

The mayor and two council member at-large seats are up for election in Courtland in 2020. Mayor Al Poehler was the only one to file for his seat. Ralph Bents and Thomas Foley filed for the council seats.

Lafayette

The mayor and two council member at-large seats are up for election in Lafayette in 2020. Sandra Peterson was the lone filer for the mayoral position. Current Mayor Tom Sandberg did not file. Tom Polich and Scott Portner, incumbent councilors, both filed to retain their seats, while Sharon Donnay filed to challenge.

Kasota

The city of Kasota has two regular council seats open, as well as a special election council seat. Roger Renhelt and Richard Borglum filed for the two regular council seats; Cody Reutzel was the lone filer for the special election council seat; and Betty Ingalls filed to run for the mayoral seat currently held by Bridget Klein, who did not file.

Cleveland

Cleveland has two City Council positions up for election, belonging to Fred Danner and Glenn Beer. Beer filed to retain his seats, while Scott Bucholz and Mark Hintgen also filed.

Mayor Don McCabe was the lone filer for his seat.

“I want to keep involved in the town and keep Cleveland growing,” said McCabe. “I’m just trying to do my part to help the city out.”

Three seats on the Cleveland School Board are open for election this year — Jenny Hokanson’s, Chris Baker’s and Scott Miller’s. Horkanson and Miller both filed for re-election, but Baker will step down at the end of his term. Michael Omtvedt and Andy Jindra both filed as new challengers.

Reach Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8567 or follow him on Twitter @EditorPhilipWeyhe.

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