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High early voting turnout leads to longer lines in Grand Forks

Diane Fossum has been volunteering as an election official in Grand Forks County for 17 years, but she's never seen numbers for early voting as high as this.

Early voters wait to cast their ballots at the Alerus Center Wednesday afternoon.
Early voters wait to cast their ballots at the Alerus Center Wednesday afternoon.

Diane Fossum has been volunteering as an election official in Grand Forks County for 17 years, but she's never seen numbers for early voting as high as this.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Grand Forks County has already counted 3,000 ballots since the polls opened at 10 a.m. Monday for early voting. Fossum said they're averaging 200 votes per hour.

The increase in early voting has led to something unexpected for early voters: lines.

'We've never had lines for early voting before," Fossum said.

She believes the nice weather this week might be a factor. Abundant wheelchairs provided by the Alerus Center have been nice for voters with disabilities or older residents, she said, many of whom cast ballots early.

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On Monday, when Fossum declared the polls open at 10 a.m., she said the line went to the southside doors of the Alerus Center, about 150 feet from the voting room. Those lines persisted through much of Monday and Tuesday, when Fossum said wait times were about 25 to 30 minutes.

By Wednesday, things had calmed down a bit, with average wait times of about 15 minutes. At the lunch hour, voters were through the line and in the booth in less than 10 minutes.

Should lines really pile up, Fossum said there are 13 more polling docks in another room election officials can break out. The 17 docks in the primary early voting room have been sufficient thus far.

Sandy and Ed Kowalzcik said they wanted to vote early this year for convenience, adding they voted early in 2012, too.

"It's kind of nice that it's not so busy," she said, standing in a short line around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Fossum said she thinks the increase in early voting numbers also is because people have their mind made up this election season. For the former clerk and election veteran, 2016 has been fun.

"This has been the most exciting one," Fossum said.

Anyone inside the doors of Entrance 1 at the Alerus Center by 6 p.m. can cast their ballots. Fossum said there was a line to the door at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and all of those votes were cast by 6:30 p.m.

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Early voting runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday.

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