Crow Wing County sets record voter turnout

Absentee/mail ballots continue to be counted with 21 ballots arriving in Wednesday's mail.

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, an election judge at Mission Town Hall monitors the flow of voters into the building. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Add an energized voter to the list of records set in 2020.

Preliminary statistics show Crow Wing County had the highest number of voters ever. They turned out on Election Day, voted early, or by absentee ballot. They voted in person, by utilizing a drop-off site, or by putting their ballots in the mail. But, most of all, they voted as 85.49% of registered voters in the county, representing 40,286 people, and took an active part in the election.

There were 44,217 registered voters in Crow Wing County before Election Day. Another 2,904 voters registered on Election Day.

Crow Wing County reported all polling place results and almost 24,000 absentee/mail ballots in the Election Day totals.

About 470 absentee/mail ballots were received by the 3 p.m. or 8 p.m. deadline on Election Day but were not processed Tuesday and were counted Wednesday, Nov. 4. The county received 21 ballots in Wednesday’s mail. Those ballots will be reviewed by the ballot board and processed along with whatever ballots arrive in Thursday’s mail that are eligible for review.


Special legislation passed this year allows for an extra two days to process the ballots that were received by Election Day, said Deborah Erickson, who oversees the election process in Crow Wing County.

Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson talks about how to vote via mail or absentee ballot. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Any ballots received in the mail Wednesday and Thursday, which were postmarked by Nov. 3, will be processed and results will be updated by the end of day Thursday. Crow Wing County will also process any eligible ballots received on Friday and report those results by end of day Friday. Final updates will then be made on Tuesday, Nov. 10. If totals do not change on any of these given dates, no ballots were processed that day, Erickson said.

Vote totals were incomplete later into the night for some lakes area counties as Election Day pushed into the day after.

“The ballots are in the process of being counted and there should be an 'upload' of results that will occur today," Stella Hegg, a former Crow Wing County staff member who now works in the Elections Division in the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, said of late Cass County results. "They had an unprecedented number of mail and absentee ballots to process and the Legislature approved a timeline of up to 48 hours to process absentee and mail ballots received on or before Election Day,” Hegg added in an email.

With the coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota authorized a seven-day extension to count absentee ballots. Those rules were in place for the primary. A three-member panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in support of a pair of Minnesota Republican electors who challenged the extending the date the ballots could be accepted if postmarked by Nov. 3. The Republican electors argued extending the time period violated state and federal election law.

The decision means absentee ballots that arrived by mail after 8 p.m. Election Day or after 3 p.m. in-person will be kept separate upon arrival and what happens after that will likely be determined by another court.


In their decision, Judges Bobby Shepherd and L. Steven Grasz wrote Minnesota law puts the power to make decisions about elections with the state Legislature, not the secretary of state's office. And while it may have been a decision made with good intentions amid the coronavirus pandemic, the judges said the extended counting period shouldn't stand.

In Crow Wing County, Erickson said the ruling applied only to the office of president/vice president and requires the county elections to be able to segregate the votes received between Nov. 4-10 for the office of president so they can be removed at a later date if a court declares them to be invalid. Those ballots will be stored in a sealed ballot case separate from all other ballots so they can be identified if needed. The rest of the offices on those ballots are still subject to the consent decree, which means they are ballots to be counted if postmarked by Nov. 3.

By the numbers

2020 State General Election – preliminary statistics — Crow Wing County

  • 44,217 voters registered before Election Day.

  • 2,904 voters registered on Election Day.

  • 40,286 total voters in the county.

  • 85.49% of registered voters took part in the election.

  • 51,180 people are eligible voters in the county per census data.

  • 78.71% of those eligible voters took part in the election.

  • 16,070 people voted at polling places on election day (40% of the voters)

  • 24,216 voters voted by absentee/mail ballot (60% of the voters) — this includes 2,738 “early votes” from Tuesday, Oct. 27- Nov. 2. And it Includes 947 mail ballot voters who voted in person at the courthouse on Election Day.

  • 2016 (the previous presidential election year) had 36,148 total voters (82.95% of registered voters/74.94% of eligible voters)

Source: Crow Wing County.


Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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