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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 04 2012

High voter turnout expected in Minnesota despite lack of top-of-ballot action

ST. PAUL – Presidential candidates have all but ignored Minnesota.

The U.S. Senate race has been a snoozer, as have some U.S. House races.

But get down the ballot a ways and two proposed constitutional amendments have generated plenty of sparks. And perhaps the most important decision to be made by Minnesota voters Tuesday is what party controls the state Legislature.

In many ways, Tuesday’s election will be topsy-turvy with votes lower on the ballot trumping those that normally get the most attention.

Nothing shows that better than the proposed amendment to define marriage as only between one man and one woman. The two sides have raised a combined total of more than $16 million, by far the priciest constitutional amendment campaign in state history and the most expensive Minnesota campaign this year.

At the other extreme, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills had $68,000 in the bank when the final pre-election finance report came out, a pittance compared to Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s

$4.8 million. The Senate race normally is high profile, but there has been little public activity this year.

Regardless of the attention and money, or lack thereof, at the top of the ballot, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie predicts the state again will have voter turnout of about 78 percent, retaining its status as the country’s best-voting state.

In some rural precincts, 90 percent of eligible voters show up on Election Day.

“Minnesotans vote,” he said. “They are proud of it.”

Those Minnesotans will face a long ballot Tuesday because every one of 201 state Legislature seats is on the ballot, something that occurs just once every 10 years after district lines are redrawn to accommodate new census figures.

All eight Minnesota U.S. House seats are up for election every two years. And there are plenty of decisions to be made about local races.

The major offices not on the ballot include governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state auditor. Also, U.S. Sen. Al Franken is not up for re-election until 2014.

“A huge percentage of Minnesota elective officials are on the ballot,” Ritchie said, which when added to national presidential race publicity should make for a busy Tuesday at the state’s 4,102 polling places.

Every ballot in every precinct will include state House and Senate races.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and a Republican-controlled Legislature have battled, and often stalled, the past two years. Democrats say that putting them in control would make for a smoother government, but Republicans say a liberal governor needs to be checked.

Dayton said the choice before voters comes down to “gridlock versus progress.”

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