EAST GRAND FORKS, MINN. — Ronald Anderson marched into his polling place at City Hall wearing his Veterans of Foreign Wars service cap.
“I always wear it on special occasions, and this is a special occasion,” he said. “With the situation the country is in, this election is tops” in importance.
Anderson, a veteran of wars in Korea and Vietnam, also brought his neighbor, Juan Carrizales, to the polls.
Carrizales, 37, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in East Grand Forks for more than 10 years, had come — at neighbor Anderson’s urging — to vote for the first time.
“I got a good man here to register,” Anderson said, throwing an arm around Carrizales. “I told him he’s a good citizen and he should vote. We’re a melting pot now.”
Both men said they voted for Barack Obama.
Carrizales, who works for a Red River Valley potato company, said that his wife would register and vote later in the day. It would be her first ballot, too.
How was the experience?
“It was like ‘Wow – I did something for the world today!’ ” he said, beaming. “I was a good citizen today!”
Gerald Amiot, Polk County auditor, said the election “appears to be flowing well” and he had heard of no major problems in the northwestern Minnesota county.
“Turnout is really heavy,” he said, with vote numbers in many precincts topping primary election totals by noon.
The county had ordered “in most cases a third more ballots over the registered voter count” to allow for growth and heightened interest in the election, Amiot said.
“We had a little over 82 percent turnout in the last presidential election, and I would guess we’re looking at the 85 percent range this time,” he said at midday. “Absentee ballots are up from about 1,050 last time to about 1,300 as of late yesterday (Monday), and today we’ll probably get another 40 to 50.”