Candidates: Houston County commissioners first on ballot

By : 
Sherry Pitts


The 2020 election cycle has begun. There is much more to the 2020 elections this year than the race for president. There is a lot of action happening further down as candidates for local municipalities and county commissioner will be on the ballot.

In Houston County, a special primary election for District 5 county commissioner was held on Tuesday, Feb. 11. The primary election dropped the number of candidates running for the seat to serve the remainder of the late commissioner, Fred Arnold, from four to two.

Official election returns show 426 people showed up to the polls, voting to replace the vacancy in term, expiring Dec. 31, 2020. The top two candidates proceeding to the April 14 special election ballot are Greg Myhre, heading the pack with 222 votes, followed by Char Meiners with 140 votes. 

“Whoever wins the election in April will go on term until Dec. 31,” Houston County Auditor/Treasurer Donna Trehus said.

Scott Onsad received 48 votes, and  David Pieper registered with 16. 

County commissioners are elected officials who oversee county activities and work to ensure that citizen concerns are met. They also set the county budget and property tax rates, allocate money to social services and public safety, ensuring federal and state requirements are fulfilled and county operations run smoothly. 

People interested in running for county commissioner, possess an understanding of what issues are important in the community and are motivated by a personal call to service and to help others; open filing period runs from May 19 through June 2. The same commissioner seat in Houston County will be up for election this fall with a four-year term beginning Jan. 1. Candidates seeking placement on the general election ballot need to file an application and pay the specified amount of money required to do so. If more than two candidates file, they will be put on the ballot for the primary election in August. Affidavits of candidacy can be picked up at the Houston County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office, Houston County Courthouse, at 304 South Marshall Street, Room 116, Caledonia.

Along with the county commissioner race, Erin Konkel, Spring Grove city clerk/treasurer, advised,  there are currently two seats available for Spring Grove City Council. Also on the ballot is the mayoral race.  

A city council enacts laws and promotes the safety of its citizens. A city councilperson, an elected member, works to ensure that the district's residents are treated fairly by those policies. These duties and responsibilities represent constituents and see to the needs of the city as a whole.

The mayor directs the administrative structure, presiding at council meetings, serving as head of the local government. The mayor must listen well and comprehend the issues brought before them, in conjunction with cultivating relationships with policymakers from other levels of government to obtain funding and to meet other needs. 

What’s next?

Minnesota is one of 14 states holding presidential primaries on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday. This is the state’s first presidential primary since 1992, previously holding caucuses instead. Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill in 2016 reinstating a primary starting in 2020 as part of a national trend away from caucuses. 

This year, only two parties submitted candidates for the presidential primary: Republican Party and Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. 

There will be a separate ballot for each party. The Houston County auditor/treasurer wants the public to know they have to declare which party they’re voting for before picking up their ballot.

TheDemocratic-Farmer-Labor Partyhas 16 candidates listed, many of which have dropped out, as well as an uncommitted option. Overall, there were 29 major Democratic presidential candidates in the 2020 election, and eight major candidates are still seeking the nomination. 

Of the candidates on the ballot still viable in the race, as of Feb. 16, appearing in order of the ballot are: Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael R. Bloomberg, Joseph Biden, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders. 

The Minnesota state Republican Party decided there wouldn’t be other candidates listed on the Minnesota ballot. In a letter to the Minnesota Secretary of State from Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, she outlined the party's "determination of candidates" for the March 3 Republican primary ballot. 

The Republican incumbent, President Donald J. Trump, is listed on the ballot unopposed; however, space is provided for a Republican presidential nominee write-in candidate. Bill Weld is a former Massachusetts governor who is challenging Trump for the Republican nomination. 

Accuracy test

Prior to every election, both preliminary testing and a public accuracy test must be conducted of its electronic voting systems to verify that the equipment and programming function properly. Ballot counters are tested using a test deck of ballots with a predetermined set of votes marked, then comparing the totals from the ballot counter with the expected totals. The test deck must be set up so that a variety of voting conditions are tested. 

A public accuracy test will be held in the commissioners’ room222at the Houston County Courthouse, 304 Marshall Street in Caledonia, on Feb. 26. Election judges, clerks and judges test ballots and machines, Trehus explained, “verifying that the machines work.” Officials from all districts show up at the commissioners’ room to test deck. The public is invited to attend the testing, which is expected to last an hour-and-a-half at most, since there are only two ballots.  

Electronic rosters

For the first time, Houston County voters could be checking in at their polling places on an electronic poll pad, instead of on a big printed book of names. The county’s purchase of 10 new poll pads has caused one small change to the voting instructions while the check-in process will be more efficient, according to Trehus. 

The poll workers will find voter names using the new poll pads instead of searching through a paper roster. The voter will tell the election judge who they are, the election judge will pull up the voter’s name on the poll pad, then the voter provides a signature. To vote in the primary, voters will have to request either a Democratic or Republican ballot. At that point, the voter is checked in and can cast a ballot. The clerk’s office is currently seeking grants for funding for 25 more poll pads for the August primary election. 

Data privacy

This year's presidential primary data is similar to past year's caucus data gathered by both major political primaries. A list of who voted in the primary and the political party each voter selected will be provided to the chair of each major political party. While some people have no problem being identified with a particular political party,it’s important to note that some voters have good reasons for keeping their voting preferences private. 

Trehus wants to reassure the public that “only the verified party chairperson of each party can get access to the name of voter, birth year only, and which party voted for, not which candidate was specifically voted for.

If you miss the pre-registration deadline, you can still register and vote at the polls on Election Day. 

Contact your  local jurisdiction for details about the vacant office,or any other voting or ballot questions. 

Then what?

The process that began with the Iowa caucuses will be continuing on a state-by-state basis until June 7 as candidates try to gather the 1,991 delegates needed to secure the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

The Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee starting Monday, July 13, ending Thursday, July 16. The primary goal of this four-day convention is to nominate and confirm a candidate for president and vice president, adopt a party platform and unify the party.

The Republican National Convention will begin Monday, Aug. 24, ending Thursday, Aug. 27, in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

The first presidential debate will be held in South Bend, Indiana, on Sept. 29, followed by the vice presidential debate on Oct.7 in Salt Lake City.

The second presidential debate will be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Oct. 15.

The third and final presidential debate on Oct. 22, less than two weeks before Election Day, will bein Nashville.