Voter turnout in U-area slow

Despite the contentious race in the district, one polling place had only seen four votes cast by noon.

Kia Farhang

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Voters in the University of Minnesota area were slow to head to the polls on Tuesday, despite a contentious primary election pitting a long-time Democratic-Farmer-Labor incumbent against a Somali-born newcomer to represent the area in the state House of Representatives.

And though expectations of high turnout caused city officials to invoke an old law and bring sergeants-at-arms to four precincts, the primary election had been running smoothly as of about 2 p.m., said Minneapolis city clerk Casey Carl.

The race between state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and Mohamud Noor for the DFL berth on November’s ballot is one of the most contentious in the state, Carl said.

Early voter turnout was high in wards 2 and 6, parts of which make up the University’s district, Carl said. About 1,500 people voted early in Ward 6, he said.

Noor, a city school board member, is hoping to wrestle the spot in the state Legislature from Kahn, who has held it for decades.

Students make up a large swath of the district’s population. Some election judges said they thought the primary’s mid-August date — a time before students are back to school and on campus — contributed to the low turnout.

“Nobody’s home,” said Mikki Murray, assistant head election judge at the polling place located at the Weisman Art Museum.

Some students, like recent graduate Ehren Minkema, still found time to vote, despite the time of year and the typically slow turnout for primaries.

During his first three years of college, Minkema said, he was an active member of the College Republicans.

“I believe in the civic process,” he said, adding that citizens should be involved in choosing their government leaders. “If we don’t vote … we shouldn’t be really able to complain.”

But election judges in the University area weren’t optimistic about seeing a high voter turnout, even as the dinner hour approached.

At the Van Cleve Park polling center, head election judge Sid Teske said he doubted that more than 10 percent of the precinct’s registered voters would turn up. At about 4 p.m., just over 80 people had voted at the precinct, a small portion of its more than 1,700 registered voters.

“Primaries are always slow,” said Eileen Kilpatrick, another head election judge at the park. But she also said election judges are always hoping for more voters.

Murray said only four ballots had been cast at the Weisman Art Museum by about noon.

By contrast, about 100 people had cast ballots at the polling place located at the Brian Coyle Center by 1 p.m., Carl estimated.

The atmosphere around the center, located in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, was tranquil, but Noor’s supporters weren’t afraid to remind passersby to vote.

A few blocks away, half a dozen Noor supporters gathered on the corner of Cedar Avenue and South Sixth Street with a megaphone to let their neighbors know they had just a few hours left to cast ballots.

Ikram Mohamed, a Minneapolis Central High School student, was one of the Noor supporters on the corner. She said Kahn’s 42 years in office were enough.

“It’s about time now to change,” Mohamed said.

Tuesday’s primary will likely decide who will represent District 60B in the state Legislature, because the district generally leans left. Two Republican candidates, Abdimalik Askar and Abdulkarim Godah, are also looking to represent the district by securing their party’s support in the primary election.

Candidates for U.S. senator, state governor, state auditor and other elected official positions are also on deck for Tuesday’s primary election.