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Langley, Roberts advance in Cloquet Ward 5 primary

There was no flood of voters Tuesday in Cloquet, rather it was more of a trickle. The 19th voter cast her ballot at 12:45 p.m. at Cloquet City Hall (Ward 3), where the only question on the ballot concerned the three candidates for Minnesota Supreme Court. By the end of voting, a total of 60 people (out of 1273 registered voters) had voted in Ward 3, or 4.7 percent.

Carlton County Auditor Paul Gassert wasn’t surprised by the low turnout, considering the Minnesota Supreme Court race was the only race on the ballot countywide. Turnout for all of Carlton County came in at just over 7 percent.

“I’d say we were a little bit of an anomaly with only having the judicial race on the ballot most places,” Gassert said. “Most counties had other races on the ballot. Take St. Louis County, they had at least three state representative races, and at least a couple county board races on the ballot.”

Gassert said turnout was highest in Cloquet’s Ward 5, where three candidates for the Ward 5 Cloquet City Council seat were narrowed down to two for the general election.

Incumbent Steve Langley garnered the most vote in that race, with 82, while Mark Roberts got 47 votes and Barb Wyman 39. Roberts and Langley will face off in the general election, in the nonpartisan city council race.

Even in Ward 5, the turnout wasn’t anything to boast about, with 161 Ward 5 Precinct 1 residents voting at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (about 14.8 percent) and 14 in Precinct 2 casting votes at Fond du Lac Head Start (4.6 percent).

Voters in the city of Barnum were asked to vote on the following yes/no question: The City of Barnum currently owns and operates a municipal liquor store. Shall the City Council be allowed to issue private on-sale licenses for the sale of intoxicating liquor to hotels and restaurants, as well as to clubs?

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, the liquor question passed with 17 people voting “yes” versus 8 voting “no,” a total of 25 out of 282 registered voters, for nearly 9 percent.

Gassert said he’s not particularly worried about voter turnout here.

“I predict the general election with a presidential race will be much busier,” he said. “Eighty percent plus.”

He added that there was not a lot of new voter registration activity during Tuesday’s primary, but he expects well over 1,000 new voter registrations on election day in November throughout the county. The same goes for absentee ballots. Fewer than 100 absentee ballots were cast for the primary elections across Carlton County, but he expect more than 1,500 in November.

The county auditor is a little worried, however, about a dearth of people running for local office and wanted to remind people that they can file to run for all the local city (except for Cloquet), township and school elected positions through until Tuesday, Aug. 16. Prospective candidates should file with the appropriate city, township or school.

Minnesota often leads the country in general election turnout, but just about 10 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the last two primary elections.

The fact that the Supreme Court race was the only statewide race Tuesday helped account for low turnout.

In that race, Supreme Court Justice Natalie Hudson, appointed less than a year ago, won by a large margin in a contest with two challengers. Michelle MacDonald led Craig Foss for the right to challenge Hudson in November.

With most votes counted, Hudson had 65 percent of the vote.

MacDonald ran and lost in 2012 after losing Republican Party backing when GOP leaders discovered she faced legal troubles. Foss said he was running because he could not find a job as a legally blind person.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.