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Weather doesn't slow down area voters

People waited in line to vote Tuesday evening at the Washington County Service Center in Cottage Grove. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia

SOUTH WASHINGTON COUNTY — Voters flocked to the polls in today's state general election, braving rain, sleet and a bitter cold wind that seemed to echo the country's acrimonious political divide.

As of midday, a polling place at Newport Elementary School had been averaging about 85 ballots an hour, according to one election official. By 1:12 p.m. Tuesday, 537 ballots had been cast, election clerk and assistant to Newport City Administrator Travis Brierley said.

By 6:30 p.m. the number of ballots had swelled to nearly 1,200, he said.

Dan Egler of Newport voted Republican, but not a straight ticket.

"If I don't vote, my opinion doesn't count," he said. "Even if my candidates don't get in, my opinion still counts."

Marcelo Flores voted Democratic.

"We need to solve immigration," he said. "We need to solve insurance, health care. I think they're the best people to fix it."

Dereje Lajebo, 20, is studying business at Inver Hills Community College. He wants to elect "Somebody who cares about students, somebody who cares about college."

He would like to attend a four-year college but he can't afford it, he said.

"I feel like it's just too much."

Lajebo was 7 years old when his parents emigrated to America from Ethiopia.

"They came here legally," he said.

He said more has to be done to curtail illegal immigration.

"I would not want people to just flood in without checking on them first."

At the Washington County Service Center in Cottage Grove, 776 ballots had been cast before 4 p.m., election judge Jane Jacobsen said.

That included Michele Pollard and her daughter Cadence Nunn. 

Nunn, 18, said people around her age can make a difference with their vote.

"I think there are enough of us to decide what goes," she said.

The family recently moved to Cottage Grove.

"We're new to Cottage Grove," Pollard said. "So far, so good."

They like the fact the city council is non-partisan.

"If you don't know, it's more comfortable," Nunn said.

Voter Whitney Harvey has a first-grader in District 833. She said she would like to see more funding for education, because that benefits everyone.

She’d also like to see an end to the partisan rancor and distrust.

“I think everyone is so polarized right now,” she said. “It’s so discouraging.”

After casting her vote, Cheryl Olson hurried to her vehicle, eager to be out of the cold.

"Confused," she said, when asked how she felt about the election.

"They say one thing and they might do another."

Which party?

"Both," she said.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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