Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Scattered polling-place disruptions and problems reported

Among the incidents were a bomb threat in Canby, improper actions by election judges, and amendment campaign materials too close to voting areas. 

Voters lined up outside a Brackett Park polling place in Minneapolis.
Photo by Karl Pearson-Cater

Several Election Day reports of scattered polling place disruptions and problems have surfaced in recent hours, and lawyers for a national voter protection group say call volumes are running ahead of 2008 and 2010 levels in the state.

Voters at four precincts in a polling place in Canby, Minn., were evacuated about 11:30 a.m. in response to a bomb threat. The polling place is being moved, a county official said, to City Hall, and was to be up and running by about 1:30 p.m.

Canby Police officials declined to offer any details on the threat or whether it was related to Election Day, but the county official said she’d heard that about four blocks around a Minnesota West Community and Technical College campus there had been evacuated.

It’s unclear what effect the disruption will have on voters in Canby, part of Yellow Medicine County in southwestern Minnesota. In 2008, before redistricting, the two precincts in the town had 1,038 voters. Eighty-eight ballots had been cast in one of the precincts before the disruption today, the county official said.

Article continues after advertisement

“I don’t have any anecdotal memory of anything like that,” Secretary of State’s Office spokeswoman Pat Turgeon said.  “We’ve had polling places close like that for other reasons … but I don’t recall any other bomb threats.”

Meanwhile, attorneys working for a national group called Election Protection at the local law firm Dorsey & Whitney said call volumes today are up dramatically over 2008 and 2010.

Jonathan Van Horn, a volunteer attorney with Election Protection and a lawyer at the firm, said more than 100 calls per hour from voters in Minnesota and Missouri had been flooding in since the hot line opened.

The hot line deals with voting irregularities. Van Horn said voters were calling in about election judges in several places violating the rules by offering instructions on the mechanics of voting on the two constitutional amendments — namely, that a blank vote equals a “no” vote.

There have also been reports about pro-marriage amendment campaign materials at several churches that serve as polling places on Election Day. Around midday, Twitter offered a flood of pictures of leaflets and signs at churches.

Rachel Smith, elections manager in Hennepin County, said Tuesday afternoon that it’s up the cities to work with polling places to rectify those situations. Smith also said she’d heard reports of some rainbow flags up in churches.

Van Horn also said his group had received many calls about long lines at polling places – especially early Tuesday.

“I think our call volumes indicate a lot of interest in the election,” he said. “I think that it’s just a high turnout election.”

“Things are running really well,” Smith reaffirmed shortly before 1 p.m. “We have heard … that the polling places are active and busy.”

Article continues after advertisement

Elections officials in some near-metro suburbs confirmed reports that turnout, anecdotally, appears to be increasing over 2008.

Minnetonka City Clerk David Maeda said he’d heard reports of long lines in his suburban polling places that didn’t let up as the morning progressed.

“The lines weren’t there all the time … whereas today every place I’ve talked to the lines haven’t let up,” he said, anecdotally comparing turnout with 2008.

Minnetonka features a tight state Senate race between incumbent DFLer Terri Bonoff and Republican David Gaither.

Other suburbs — such as St. Louis Park and Eagan, plus cities further out like Northfield — had a harder time quantifying a change between this year and the last presidential election, but city officials all confirmed polling places appeared to be bustling.

MPR also reported that turnout could be up in the 8th Congressional District, where GOP. Rep. Chip Cravaack is challenging former Rep. Rick Nolan. Preliminary reports on Twitter also indicate high turnout among college students, including at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Duluth campuses.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office had no preliminary reports of fraud or voting irregularities.