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Published August 10, 2010, 08:17 PM

Harvest attracts more attention than primary in tiny Eldred, Minn.

When Minnesota moved its primary a month earlier than usual, there were concerns that voting turnout might be affected. Primaries traditionally don’t attract a large crowd, anyway, but critics maintained that August is not only harvest but also the time for families to take late vacations before school begins.

By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald

ELDRED, Minn. — Harvest won over politics today in a landslide at Farmers Elevator Co.

By 11 a.m., three people had voted at the Roome town hall, which doubles as a storage room for the elevator cooperative. Also by 11 a.m., 19 trucks hauling 33,000 bushels of wheat had unloaded.

When Minnesota moved its primary a month earlier than usual, there were concerns that voting turnout might be affected. Primaries traditionally don’t attract a large crowd, anyway, but critics maintained that August is not only harvest but also the time for families to take late vacations before school begins.

Don’t make a judgment based solely on that 19-3 margin, locals say. The township has only 108 voters on its rolls. “Turnout is usually poor — 20 to 30 voters — for a primary, anyway,” said election judge Joyce Gilbertson.

And, added voter No. 3 Allan Dragseth, “There’s really only one race, anyway, for sheriff.”

There were two races for Democrats, as three governor candidates vied for the DFL’s spot on the November ballot.

Tim Moe, a social studies teacher, was eager — too eager — to vote, arriving 90 minutes before the polls opened. “As a social studies teacher, I’d better participate in the democratic process,” he said. “Plus, I have two friends running for sheriff. I also studied up online last night to see which governor candidate fit my views.”

Having a combination elevator/town hall is a rarity, but that’s the way it’s always been for Roome Township, established in the late 1800s. The facility is handy in November, elevator assistant manager Jim Gunderson said, because it means just one stop for dropping off grain and voting in the general election.

“But hauling from the bins to the elevator in November is a lot more slower-paced than hauling from the fields to the elevator,” he said. “When you’re taking if off the fields and you’re trying to beat the weather, things are a lot faster.”

But it’s not without its problems. Karen Thoreson’s career as an election judge was short-lived because she was allergic to grain dust. So, Gilbertson wasn’t taking any chances.

“I brought along some Sudafed,” she said.

Harvest was the driving force for an all-female election crew when it used to be all-male when the township officers handled it. When the primary was held one year during the spring, in the middle of planting, the men capitulated.

It’s worked out well since. “I feel sorry for the women, though,” elevator Manager Dan Grunewald said. “It smells like dead mice in that room.”

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com.

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