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Moderate Voter Turnout For Mid-Term Election

By Staff | Nov 4, 2010

Palo Alto County Auditor Gary Leonard (left) posted preliminariy election results from each precinct as soon as they arrived on election night. Voters gathered in the courthouse hallway to learn the outcome of election races. --Dan Voigt photo

Palo Alto County voters went to the polls Tuesday to make their voices heard in several contested elections, including a very close race for the Iowa House of Representatives District Seven seat that may not be decided for several days. With 57 percent voter turnout on Tuesday, voters provided an upset, as incumbent Palo Alto County Attorney Peter C. Hart was unseated in his bid for re-election.

In addition to the political questions facing the voters, the continuation of casino gaming in the county was approved by a huge margin and voters also approved an Extension referendum question.

A total of 3,978 votes were cast in Tuesday’s elections, out of a 6,952 registered voters in the county. Of that total, 1,164 absentee ballots were issued prior to the election, and all but about 60 had been returned to the Palo Alto County Auditor’s Office by Tuesday, By law, absentee ballots postmarked Nov. 1 may be accepted until the official canvas of the vote. All local vote totals are considered unofficial until canvassed on Nov. 9 by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors for the local elections, with the state canvas taking place on Nov. 29.

The closest local race came in the race for the County Attorney’s office, where incumbent Peter C. Hart lost his bid for re-election by 42 votes, falling to Republican challenger Lyssa Henderson. Hart received 1,913 votes to Henderson’s 1,955 votes.

An even closer contested election came for the Iowa House District Seven seat being vacated by Marcie Frevert. Voters in the county chose republican contender Lannie Miller over Democratic contender John Wittneben of Estherville, as Miller received 2,101 votes in Palo Alto County, while Wittneben earned 1,753 votes. The district also includes a portion of Kossuth County along with Emmet County. In Kossuth county, Miller receive 1,597 votes to Wittneben’s 1,287. But in Emmet County, Miller garnered 1,394 votes while Wittneben received, 2,090 votes. Totaling the three counties, it appears Wittneben eked out a 38-vote win over Miller – 5,130 to 5,092.

There were two other contested political contests decided by voters on Tuesday for seats on the County Board of Supervisors. In District Two, Republican incumbent Jerry Hofstad withstood the challenge of Democratic candidate Nancy Wentzel. As he received 518 votes, while Wentzel earned 466. In Supervisor District Five, Republican incumbent Ed Noonan won re-election over Democratic challenger Jim Neighbors, as Noonan earned 491 votes and Neighbors received 276.

A pair of local public measure questions also received approval from the county’s voters as well on Tuesday. The reauthorization of casino gaming in the county was approved in an overwhelming fashion, with 3,286 yes votes and 554 no votes, an 85 percent approval.

It was a closer count for the referendum question for the Palo Alto County Extension Council, as it was finally able to pass the Extension Referendum by 260 votes, with 1,864 yes votes and 1,604 no votes, or 53 percent approval.

There were several uncontested races in the county, including Supervisor District One where Republican Keith Wirtz ran unopposed and received 727 votes to retain his seat on the board. County Treasurer Mary Kunz Hilfiker, a Democrat, also ran unopposed and was re-elected with 3,045 votes. Also running un-opposed was Democratic County Recorder Bonnie Whitney, who received 3,024 votes to retain her office for another term.

At the state level, Palo Alto County followed the state trend and elected former Governor Terry Branstad and running mate Kim Reynolds to office over Governor Chet Culver. Branstad received 58 percent of the vote with 2,266 votes while Culver received 37 percent of the vote, or 1,451 votes. And, local voters followed the state trend in unseating the three Supreme Court Justices, as all three were voted out of their positions by margins of 60-plus percent.

As a sidelight, a total of 942 straight-party votes were cast, with 449 Democratic straight tickets and 444 Republican straight ballots. There were also 49 straight-ticket Libertarian ballots cast in the election.