More Minnesotans are voting absentee in this year's primary election than in any primary election since 1990, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Monday.
As of 3 p.m. Monday, election officials have accepted 27,911 absentee ballots for Tuesday's primary election, which includes a close primary race between several DFL candidates for governor.
"This will certainly beat any previous record that we can put our fingers on," Ritchie told MPR's All Things Considered. "Our records are sketchy when you go back 50, 60 years, but it looks like this may in fact be an all-time record as well."
Despite the increase in absentee voting, Ritchie, a DFLer running for his second term, said he thinks that overall voter turnout in Tuesday's primary could be as low as 10 percent. Primary voter turnout is usually between 10 and 20 percent, Ritchie said.
But he said the absentee voting numbers have left some experts puzzled.
"The thing that is ... causing some head scratching is you have such a high level of absentee voting already, and we're still a day out," Richie said. "Historically, that does signal a higher turnout in the primary than might've been normally expected. We don't know if it's going to follow a historical pattern in that way."
Minnesota moved its primary from September to August this year to comply with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. The federal law ensures that the votes cast by military personnel and other Americans living abroad get counted back home.
All states must now provide at least a 45-day window between the primary and general election to accommodate.
Here are the absentee ballot totals for other primary elections, as provided by Ritchie's office. The bold text indicates years in which there was a primary race for governor.
1992: 18,990 (6,933 for presidential primary April 7)
(MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire contributed to this report.)