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Grand Forks County saw uptick in voter turnout for primary

Grand Forks voters fill in their ballots shortly before the polls close at the Alerus Center ballroom on Tuesday night. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Of Grand Forks' eligible voters, 15.82 percent turned out to the polls June 12 for Tuesdya's primary election, according to data from the North Dakota Secretary of State's Office.

For a primary in a non-presidential election year, this was high for the county. In 2014, only 8.4 percent of citizens 18 or older participated in the primary election, and in 2010 only 12.94 percent participated.

North Dakota's overall turnout was 19.66 percent. While down from 2016's 24.51 percent, this year was up from the last non-presidential primary in 2014, which had a 17.18 percent turnout.

Grand Forks County has a consistently low turnout percentage in primaries compared to most other counties across the state, though its percentage range is consistent with other large counties such as Cass, Burleigh and Ward.

Turnout in the 2018 primary ranged widely from county to county, said Secretary of State Al Jaeger.

"In this particular election year, because there weren't really any high-profile statewide type races, the turnout was really caused by local issues," Jaeger said.

In Grand Forks, contested races such as the school board or sheriff were likely motivators for many at the polls.

The high profile U.S. Senate and congressional races that North Dakotans that will be decided in November were not as much of a factor in voter interest for the primary, Jaeger said, because not all eligible voters are affiliated with the major political parties.

When asked if primary election turnout is any indicator of general election turnout, Jaeger replied with an emphatic "no."

"They're two completely different elections," Jaeger said. "There's no comparison at all. Turnout in November will be much different, much higher."

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