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Our Opinion: County residents vote

Anyone who reads the Brainerd Dispatch's Commentary page has a pretty good idea that there's no shortage of opinions among Crow Wing County residents. In the days weeks leading up to the 2014 elections the newspaper allotted extra space for Reader Opinion letters and cartoons and syndicated columnists were held back as readers voiced their opinions.

It's a satisfying sign that our readers and others did more than just sound off about politics and the state of the world this election year.

Crow Wing County's voter turnout was an impressive 71 percent, according to the election officials. Compare that with the mid-term voter turnout for Minnesota (50.31 percent) and the nation (36.4 percent). The nation's voter turnout was thought to be the lowest of in 72 years. Mid-term elections (when there's no presidential race) are traditionally ones that generate little interest. Still, this year voter apathy was overwhelming in most locations.

Why then, we wonder, was Crow Wing County able to post such high turnout numbers? This was the first year Minnesotans were able to take advantage of no excuse absentee ballots. And while Crow Wing Wing saw a lot of absentee votes, other Minnesotans were afforded the same opportunity.

Another contributing factor in high turnout is compelling political races. Crow Wing County had two hard-fought state legislative races in which two DFL incumbents were unseated. The two major party candidates for the 8th Congressional District both lived in Crow Wing County, which may have played a role as well. Those three races probably generated the most interest and discussion.

Yet, the largest school district in the county - Brainerd's - had a school board race that generated little controversy and saw all three incumbents re-elected. Similarly, all three Crow Wing County commissioners were returned to office. Sheriff's races often stir up considerable excitement, but Sheriff Todd Dahl ran without opposition.

It could just be that a strong, independent streak among Crow Wing County voters compels them to earn that ubiquitous red and white "I voted" sticker. They apparently aren't content to just grouse about the state of politics. Whatever the reason, it's a practice to be proud of and one that Minnesota and the rest of the nation should emulate.