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Voters lined up to receive ballots in the community area of Spirit of Life Catholic Church in south Mandan on Election Day.

About 48 percent of ballots cast in North Dakota's 2018 midterm election were submitted before Election Day, Nov. 6 — a new record in early voting.

According to Secretary of State Al Jaeger, absentee ballots, votes-by-mail and early voting accounted for 157,200 of the 330,598 votes cast. That stands as a record since early voting centers were first used in June 2008, according to Jaeger.

Previously the record was the 2012 general election, with about 42.5 percent of ballots cast before Election Day in North Dakota.

Jaeger said the election yielded the highest midterm turnout since 1986, when Democratic-NPL state tax commissioner Kent Conrad challenged and defeated Republican Sen. Mark Andrews. 

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Returned absentee ballots in 2018 totaled 43,657, with 53,120 votes-by-mail returned and 60,423 ballots in early voting.

About 57 percent of eligible North Dakota voters cast ballots in 2018's general election, compared to about 64 percent in 1986, when the state had 20 percent fewer voters, according to the secretary of state's office. 

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Two major decisions on the ballot this year were the state's U.S. Senate race between Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer and Measure 3 to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Cramer defeated Heitkamp, and Measure 3 failed. 

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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