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Historic Primary Election for Voters in Woodbury County

June 2, 2020
Siouxland Public Media

Woodbury County saw an historic election for the Tuesday’s primary as more people than ever cast their ballots.  Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer looks back at the past and the current milestone.

Tuesday’s primary election saw the highest amount of people voting for any primary.

The previous record was set in 1994, when Congressman Fred Grandy challenged Governor Terry Branstad.  Grandy received about 75% support in Woodbury County, but lost the Republican race. This election attracted 16,663 people out of more than 57,000 active voters. 

If you do the math that equals a turnout of almost 30%.  More than double the usual amount.

Woodbury County Election Commissioner and Auditor Pat Gill attributes the increase to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“They were concerned about voting in this election, we really got a response in how the absentee went.”

Gill says out of the 16,000 requests for absentee ballots more than 13,000 were returned by voters.  That also broke a record.

Gill also saw several people switch parties to vote in the race for Woodbury County Sheriff. 

“A lot of Democrats and a lot of no parties I saw that at the polling place too.”

“A lot of Democrats also switched to Steve King and that didn’t seem to work either.”

Gill doesn’t have the final number tabulated but says from March 12th, the day it was announced there would be a contest for the Republican Sheriff nomination until election day there were more than 2,100 votes who changed their party affiliation to Republican.

Gill had wanted to do most of the primary voting through the mail to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Former state lawmaker Rick Bertrand filed a lawsuit.  He claimed more Democrats usually vote by absentee ballot.

In response to the lawsuit, Gill opened five polling places for the primary and Special Election for Woodbury County Supervisors in July.

“Hopefully we can get back to a normal way of doing elections as we get closer to the general election.”

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