Minnesota sees burst of online voter sign-ups

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon speaks to a political science class at Augsburg College about the upcoming election. Brian Bakst | MPR Photo

Minnesota voters used an online registration site in record numbers as Tuesday's deadline for advance sign-up arrived.

Secretary of State Steve Simon's office said that 73,478 voters signed up through the mnvotes.org site in a 24-hour period on Monday. That was almost three times the prior one-day record for new or updated registrations, which was about 27,000.

Simon, a DFLer, said it suggests to him that heavy turnout is on the way Nov. 8.

"I think a large percentage of those who took the time to register or re-register will actually show up and vote," he said. "I think we've got a situation this year were at the top of the ticket in the presidential race we have candidates who inspire very strong feelings. And it's either strong like or strong dislike or both -- I say that not to be a pundit -- I say that because it bears on turnout. Intensity drives turnout and people feel intensely about these two candidates."

The registration surge coincided with the 11:59 p.m. Tuesday deadline for online pre-registration; people submitting paper applications must do so at state or local elections offices by 5 p.m. Officials say advance registration makes Election Day run smoother because it will reduce lines at polling places. That said, people can still register at the polls on Election Day.

Minnesota has more than 3.2 million registered voters and another 800,000 people who are eligible but haven't yet registered.

Also Tuesday, Simon pushed back on comments by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that the election will be rigged against him.

"It is almost impossible in Minnesota, on a statewide scope for an election like president of the United States, to rig or fix an election," Simon said. "We have a decentralized system across 87 counties and many hundreds of cities. We have well trained nonpartisan election judges 30,000 of them in fact."

Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey said the traditionally sound mechanics of the state's elections should give comfort about a fair outcome.

"In terms of the election being rigged or there is malfeasance at the polling locations or something like that, I don't think people have that sense at all here in Minnesota," Downey said. "I'm not hearing about it."

But Downey said he has ongoing concerns about Minnesota's voter registration practices.

"Here in Minnesota, the single biggest thing is the same-day registration loophole," Downey said. "Literally 500,000 votes conceivably on Election Day where people are registering that day, their votes will be counted before their registration is validated."

MPR reporter Tim Pugmire contributed.

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