With votes still being counted in the primary election Tuesday, Aug. 11, for Cloquet’s Ward 5 City Council seat, Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola will likely advance to the general election.

Absentee and mail ballots are still coming in, but Jaakola was polling far ahead of opponents Dennis Painter and Dave Hallback. Jaakola received 210 votes or almost 49% of the total reported Tuesday night.

Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola
Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola

Painter was clinging to a slim lead over former Cloquet Mayor Dave Hallback. Painter received 117 votes and Hallback had 103.

Dennis Painter
Dennis Painter

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With absentee ballots expected to continue coming in over the next few days, the race could change and Hallback could overtake Painter.

Dave Hallback
Dave Hallback

Jaakola said she wanted to wait for all votes to be counted before celebrating a victory.

“I think a lot of people may have opted for mail-in due to COVID,” she said in a text message.

Similarly, Painter said he wanted to wait for official results before making any comment on the race.

Election judges wore masks for more than 14 hours and erected clear plastic barriers so polls could open across Carlton County, but it was “pretty quiet” in Cloquet’s Ward 5 precincts, according to Vicki Oberstar, one of the head election judges.

As of about 6 p.m., less than 200 people had voted at the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church precinct in Ward 5, and 57 had voted at the Fond du Lac Reservation Head Start building.

However, many votes in Ward 5 and throughout the county absentee ballots. Carlton County Auditor Kathy Korteum said the county had sent out 6,036 absentee and mail ballots this year, an increase of more than 3,400 over the 2018 primary in Carlton County.

Korteum noted the county added four mail ballot precincts since 2018, which accounted for approximately 1,600 more mail ballots this year. As of earlier in the day Tuesday, the auditor’s office had accepted 3,242 absentee or mail ballots and more could come in over the next few days.

Korteum said she wouldn’t have statistics regarding how many absentee and mail ballots were cast from Cloquet’s Ward 5 until after all the votes were tallied later in the week.