Earlier this month, the Secretary of State’s office reported voter turnout rates around Minnesota for the Nov. 4 election, and Cook County, in the far northeastern corner of the state, took high honors with 70 percent turnout.
The statewide average was 50 percent.
In 2010, the previous mid-term election, Cook County had been tops in the state, too.
Competitive races in county (pop. 5,200, county seat Grand Marais) drove much voter interest; a county commissioner’s race ended in a tie. After the votes were counted, and recounted, the results were 246-246 in the race between Frank Moe and Kristin DeArruda Wharton. The outcome was decided by chance: Moe drew a red cube out of a bag, to win the election.
County residents also appeared very interested in the sheriff’s race, where Patrick Eliasen beat Leif Lunde, 53-46 percent.
But there were competitive races all around the state, so I asked Cook County Auditor Braidy Powers about other factors that might have driven voters on the North Shore to the polls in such high numbers. His reply:
“We don’t take any special measures. Some of it has to do with mail balloting we think. We probably have the highest percentage of our ballots mailed to voters. The only voters who go to a polling place are in the city of Grand Marais.
“But our turnout was very high even prior to going mail ballot in 1996. I think it has something to do with the demographics. We are a tourism area and we have lots of groups with strong interests (arts, recreation, education, so on) heightened because so many seasonal and tourists take part in them and that seems to translate into politics and probably into voting also.”