Area cities, townships gear up for one of most unusual elections on record

Election season is upon us, and city and township officials everywhere are gearing up for the Primary Election Day, Tuesday, August 11 and general election November 3. 

COVID-19 issues are also a factor as voting precincts prepare. 

Election judges are needed at the precincts. Some precincts, like Pelican Rapids, have needed to recruit for judges. Meanwhile, the townships generally appear to have enough. 

“We could still use more judges,” said Pelican Rapids City Clerk Danielle Harthun recently. She explained that there needs to be “party balance” between judges who identify as Republican and Democrat. However, there is no limit on the number of judges who identify as politically independent.

Last week, two more Pelican city judges were added: Andrew Bradrick and Jim Hoffe. Also on the roster: 

Danielle Harthun, Dawn Lysaker, Kathryn Andrews, Babara Ripley, Julie Tunheim, Joyce Burnham, and Onnalee Miller-Krump.

This should be sufficient for the primary, but Harthun said the city still may need to recruit a few for the November general election. 

“Election fraud” not a concern in Star Lake 

In Star Lake Township, “we’re in good shape. We’ve never had any problem with election judges in Star Lake,” said Town Board Chairman Lee Mindemann. 

Election judges from across the county were in Fergus Falls this week for training, with Wayne Stein and the Otter Tail auditor’s office. 

A little known fact, noted Mindemann, is that judges are not required to residents of the jurisdiction in order to be an election judge. 

In fact, Star Lake has actually had extra judges—which were then freed up to serve at another precinct, he noted. 

“Election fraud,” has been tossed around in the media lately, but it appears to be an overblown issue, as far as Mindemann is concerned. 

“When I hear people complain about election fraud—I can guarantee: There is no election fraud in Star Lake Township,” said Mindemann. “Or anywhere else that I know of. People shouldn’t say election fraud unless they have proof.” 

Scambler will set up with COVID precautions 

On the northwest corner of Otter Tail County, the election stage is set—mostly—at Scambler Township. 

Masks, disinfectant, and other public health features are expected to be in place for the primary and general election. Scambler has also considered plexiglass shields for election day. 

“Otter Tail County received money through the CARES Act, and we can turn in COVID-related expenses to be reimbursed,” said Clerk Sandy Tingelstad, Scambler Township. 

The township will need to limit the number in the building at any given time. Scambler has the benefit of having a second door, so voters can enter the front, and leave by the side door. 

“It is the world we live in today,” said Tingelstad. “People can come in one door, register at the tables, then go out the second door—so we don’t have people meeting in the doorway.” 

Voter turnout is expected to be brisk for the November presidential election. Scambler had a record voter turnout in 2016. In addition to the heightened interest in the national election, year-round population of the township is on a steady rise. Scambler’s population is at 476—which rivals the population in many small cities. 

“We had a record turnout four years ago, with 85 percent of our voting residents,” said Tingelstad. “The presidential election is really going to be busy.” 

Thankfully, Scambler has a great team of election judges. 

“We’ve haven’t had an issue with election judges for a long time,” she noted. “I’m glad we have people that step up to the plate.” 

Scambler’s roster of election officials include: 

Peg Gilbertson, Judy Hoadley, Tingelstad, Christie Shulstad, LouAnn Zurn, Dave Peterson, and Karen Hart.