Exercising their civic duty while celebrating the community's place in history, Dakota County and South St. Paul leaders headed to the polling place early Friday, Jan. 17 to cast absentee ballots in Minnesota's presidential primary election.
Dakota County Commissioner Kathleen A. Gaylord cast her absentee ballot at 7:35 a.m. and was followed by South St. Paul Mayor James Francis. As their ballots were received by the city clerk before regular business hours, they were believed to be among the first in Minnesota and perhaps among the first in the country to cast ballots in a 2020 presidential primary. Minnesota's presidential primary election is Tuesday, March 3 but absentee balloting makes it the first state in the nation open to all voters.
South St. Paul City Hall started absentee balloting early Friday to celebrate its strong connection to this year's 100th anniversary of women's suffrage.
Women in South St. Paul were the first in the country to cast ballots after the 19th amendment went into effect, giving women the right to vote. Fortunate timing helped seal their spot in history as a South St. Paul city election was scheduled for Aug. 27, 1920. The 19th amendment went into effect one day earlier. On Aug. 27, an estimated 80 South St. Paul women made history by casting their ballot.
Dakota County and South St. Paul are celebrating the local ties to the women's suffrage anniversary this year. A community event is planned for late summer.
“This is an exciting opportunity to recognize the women of South St. Paul," said Gaylord, a South St. Paul resident, former mayor and the city's longest-serving female elected official.
Francis has deep family roots in South St. Paul. His great-grandfather served as mayor from 1905-06 and his grandmother Zoe Francis served as city treasurer and was involved in the suffrage movement.
“We're proud of the fact that South St. Paul women were the first in the nation to vote after the 19th amendment was ratified," Francis said.
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