With no-excuse absentee, scores of Minnesotans have already voted

About 70 people waited in line at an early voting center.
About 70 people wait in line Thursday at the South Early Voting Center on 1860 E 28th St. in Minneapolis.
Brandt Williams | MPR News file

St. Kate's student Nora Vonnegut cast her presidential ballot in St. Paul Friday before the election. She has a packed schedule of classes on Tuesday and was worried she wouldn't have time to get to the polls.

"I just felt like it wasn't worth missing voting in an election like this," Vonnegut said. "This is an election where I don't think not voting is an option."

More than 400,000 people in Minnesota have already cast absentee ballots, which includes early voting. This is the first presidential election where voters didn't need an excuse to vote absentee, and the result already surpasses the 2012 total of 267,000.

Early voting across the state started in late September and will continue until the close of the business day on Monday, with election centers in some areas even open through the weekend.

Early voting allows voters to cast their ballots at county election offices by filling out an absentee ballot and feeding it directly into the voting machine, said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. The ballots are tallied, but won't be counted until polls close on Tuesday night.

"There's been a surge in demand," Simon said. "Anecdotal reports we're getting is people are very happy with the procedure."

There are about 4 million people in the state eligible to vote. For nine elections in a row, Minnesota had the highest voting rates in the country. Simon said the hope is that making it easier to vote would help Minnesota boost its voting rates.

There was brisk traffic at election centers in the Twin Cities as the week ended. Most voters, like Karen Reece of St. Paul's Como Park neighborhood said they were just trying to avoid long lines on Tuesday.

But Jack Wilcox of Minneapolis said he voted early partly as a statement in support of voting rights and against efforts to suppress people's votes.

"There have been so many news reports in other states about efforts to limit windows to go into vote, especially voter ID laws," Wilcox said. "I wanted to come and vote early to say and to demonstrate that the longer the process is to vote, and the longer the window, the clearer it works."

Voters can find the hours and addresses of early voting locations at mnvotes.org. In order to vote in Minnesota, you must be a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old on the date of the election. You must also be a resident of the state for at least 20 days before the election and not have had your voting rights taken away by a court order.