Election reaches its end

Polls open Tuesday, but hundreds have already voted in Ely area

by Tom Coombe
The commercials and campaigning will soon be over; as will the rhetoric and social media reachouts.
Lawn signs and billboards should be absent soon.
This week, the voice of the voters will be what counts the most.
An election season conducted in the midst of a pandemic comes to a close Tuesday, with voters set to weigh in on everything from bitterly-contested presidential and congressional races to legislative and local contests.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. across the state and locally as well, although, perhaps because of the pandemic, many area residents have already voted.
As of Wednesday morning, the city of Ely had already accepted 696 absentee ballots, over 300 more than cast in the last presidential year.
Neighboring Morse Township had accepted 324 absentee ballots.
The pandemic and a push by political parties to encourage voters to cast their ballots early.
Turnout locally and across Minnesota is always strong during presidential years, and the number of ballots already cast in Ely marks just over 40 percent of those who voted in 2016.
It also figures to lessen some of the load for area election officials, who will oversee area polling places on Tuesday.
Same-day voter registration is allowed in the state, and polling places will be open in Ely (Senior Center), Morse (Town Hall), Fall Lake (Town Hall) and Winton (City Hall/Community Building) Tuesday.
Only Eagles Nest Township, which adopted voting only by mail, will not have a polling place open.
Voters will help determine the winners in many races.
Among the key contests are:
• The presidential race as incumbent Donald Trump (R) faces the challenger of Democrat and former Vice President Joe Biden. Minnesota is one of several battleground states this year, attracting the attention of both candidates including four trips to northeastern Minnesota by either Trump or his running mate, Vice President Mike Pence.
Minnesota hasn’t voted for a Republican candidates for president since 1972, and polls show Biden leading the race for the state’s 10 electoral votes, but Trump came within 1.5 percentage points four years ago.
Two polls released Wednesday give Biden leads of three and five percentage points, respectively, in MInnesota.
• Incumbent U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D) is facing former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis in a battle for a six-year term.
Smith was appointed two years ago after the resignation of Al Franken, is going up against a former radio talk show host who previously served two years in the U.S. House. Lewis has stumped in Ely twice this year.
• After becoming only the second Republican to represent the Eighth District in a half-century, U.S Rep. Pete Stauber (R) is seeking re-election. He is being challenged by Democrat Quinn Nystrom. The former Baxter city council member is looking to make history of her own by being the first woman to represent the Eighth District which extends south to the Twin Cities suburb and west to the Brainerd area.
Both candidates have campaigned in Ely during the last month, with Stauber holding a rally Thursday, after the Echo’s deadline.
• Both of the area’s incumbent state legislators are going up against Republican challengers.
Longtime State Sen. Tom Bakk (D-Cook) goes up against Republican Chris Hogan, while State Rep. Rob Ecklund (D-International Falls) squares off against Thomas Manninen (R-Littlefork).
• Ely has perhaps its oddest election in decades with no contested races for four elected positions.
Mayor Chuck Novak has a challenger on the ballot, but first-time candidate Eric Urbas withdrew from the race during the summer. Novak is running for a third term in his second stint as mayor. The mayoral seat is for two years.
Council members Jerome DeBeltz, Paul Kess and Ryan Callen are unopposed in their bids for four-year terms on the council.
• The Ely School District has four candidates for three school board positions
Incumbent Tom Omerza is joined on the ballot by Rachel Brophy, Hollee Coombe and Darren Visser. The top three vote-getters win four-year terms.