Pushing the vote
WILLMAR -- In the final days before Tuesday's general election, political parties are working to get out the vote in west central Minnesota. On Friday morning a massive bus carrying the state's top DFL candidates rolled into Willmar to rally with...
WILLMAR - In the final days before Tuesday’s general election, political parties are working to get out the vote in west central Minnesota.
On Friday morning a massive bus carrying the state’s top DFL candidates rolled into Willmar to rally with local candidates, Rep. Mary Sawatzky and Rep. Andrew Falk, and to encourage the party faithful to vote and bring their neighbors with them.
“Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and knock on every door and talk to every person and get out the vote?” shouted DFL party chairman Ken Martin, at the Kandiyohi County DFL headquarters that was packed with people who eagerly responded they were indeed ready.
Martin warned that in the 2010 mid-term election about 94,000 fewer Democrats voted than in 2006 and as a result many DFLers lost their seats.
To prevent that from happening again this year, Martin said Democrats need to vote at the polls Tuesday or through early absentee voting.
In-person absentee voting is available 10 a.m. to 3 p.m today (Saturday) and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at the Kandiyohi County auditor’s office.
Absentee ballots that are filled out at home and put in the mail must be received by the auditor’s office by Tuesday.
Because of new legislation, people do not need an excuse to vote by absentee ballot. In the past, voters needed to state a reason for why they couldn’t vote at the polls.
Early numbers indicate the no-excuse absentee voting is popular with voters and could make up a significant percentage of the total votes cast this year.
Rep. Steve Simon, the DFL candidate for Secretary of State who wrote and helped pass the no-excuse absentee ballot legislation, told those at the Willmar rally that Minnesota has a history of high voter turnout and action needs to be taken to ensure that voting rights are strengthened in the state.
He told the crowd to “vote for people who want you to vote.”
Sawatzky, from District 17B and Falk, from District 17A, have been targeted by the GOP and are facing aggressive campaigns from their respective GOP challengers - Dave Baker from Willmar and Tim Miller from Prinsburg.
Several political analysts have said the result of the races in District 17A and District 17B could determine which political party has control of the House of Representatives for the next two years.
The DFL candidates at the rally were buoyed by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.
Sawatzky, from Willmar, said she’d made a 30-cup batch of coffee for the rally but should’ve made “three to four times” that amount. “We’re all in this together,” Sawatzky said.
“We have a people-powered campaign that cares about people at the ground level,” Falk said. “Because of your efforts we’re going to be successful.”
“This room makes me optimistic,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen.
“Let’s go out and win this,” said Sen. Al Franken to the crowd. “We need you.”
Over at the Kandiyohi County GOP headquarters, party co-chair Linda Kacher was the only person in the office on Friday afternoon. But that wasn’t the case earlier in the day.
She said while the DFL was holding their rally across town, the GOP office was full of volunteers and several House of Representatives from other districts who spent the day door-knocking in District 17A and District 17B on behalf of Miller and Baker.
“We had a roomful,” Kacher said. “We had a lot of volunteers.”
Along with dropping off literature on doorsteps, Kacher said the volunteers talked with people “to see if they had any questions about the candidates.”
Kacher said she did not believe the GOP was planning a statewide bus tour prior to the election, but she was clearly excited about the prospects of GOP candidates winning the local house races and the Seventh District congressional seat that’s currently held by DFLer Collin Peterson.
“The polls are showing very favorably for the Republicans,” Kacher said. “This district is a key district in a lot of ways.”
The state GOP and DFL parties, as well as outside political action groups, have poured thousands of dollars into these races with advertisements and fliers.
Thissen, who cited a long list of legislation passed in the last two years that he said made Minnesota a better place to live, said it makes him angry to see negative ads that distort the records of DFL legislators. “They’re lying to you,” Thissen said of the negative ads.
Kacher said negative advertising is coming from both political parties, but she said the campaigns of individual GOP candidates have been positive.