Early voting continues to increase in popularity in Minnesota

Election 2018 Minnesota
People line up to vote on the last day of early voting at the Minneapolis Early Vote Center on Nov. 5, 2018, in Minneapolis. Early voting continues to grow in popularity in Minnesota, including for this fall's local elections across the state.
Jim Mone | AP 2018

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon says the concept of “Election Day” has been redefined in recent years.

Thanks to an increase in options for early voting, he says, Election Day “isn’t the day we vote — it's the last day that we vote."

That’s true again this fall as voters in communities across the state have a number of options to cast their ballots in local elections ahead of Nov. 5. There are a number of high-profile local races:

  • St. Paul voters will elect city councilors and weigh in on a referendum question asking whether the city should keep coordinating garbage collection.

  • In Duluth, the city's first female mayor, Emily Larson, is up for re-election against challenger David Nolle, and several council seats also are on the ballot.

  • In Bloomington, at-large city council member Tim Busse is running for mayor against opponent Ryan Kulka, and there’s a charter amendment question asking whether to remove local liquor license requirements. If approved, alcohol sales would still be regulated by state law and the city code, but brew halls and taprooms would no longer be prohibited in city limits.

  • Voters in the White Bear Lake school district will decide whether to approve a $326 million school referendum.

Find other races around the state here.

In St. Paul, in-person voting began on Sept. 20 at the Ramsey County Elections Office on the city’s West Side.

Ramsey County Elections Office workers
Ramsey County Elections Office workers including Sadie Buckle (right) are ready to help residents with early voting for the Nov. 5, 2019 local elections.
Marianne Combs | MPR News

Elections worker Sadie Buckle said last week that there's been a steady stream of 50 to 60 voters coming through daily, thanks in part to the contentious trash collection debate. Ramsey County Elections reports early voting in St. Paul is triple what it was for local elections four years ago.

Ramsey County Elections Manager David Triplett said his office is humming even though it's considered an off-year, with no state or federal races on the ballot.

"This is our slowest election year in the four-year election cycle, but with a lot of candidates out there and three ballot questions we are seeing an uptick in voters voting before Election Day,” he said. “That's also just the result of more voters taking advantage of those additional options."

Starting Tuesday, Ramsey County will open eight additional polling places for people to cast their votes early. Triplett said last year 32,000 Ramsey County residents took advantage of early voting locations.

Not all areas of the state have elections this November. In Hennepin County only six cities are participating — so the county courthouse is not hosting voters. In Bloomington, Golden Valley, Independence, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minnetonka, you'll want to head to city hall to cast your ballot.

City Clerk Janet Lewis oversees elections in Bloomington. She says while people can mail in their ballots, most people are coming to City Hall to vote early.

"They really enjoy being able to do that on a day that works best for them,” she said.

According to the secretary of state's office, close to a quarter of Minnesotans vote before the official election day. Simon said he predicts early voter turnout will continue to increase over the next few years as more people take advantage of new options.

If you have any questions about where to vote early or on Election Day, check out the secretary of state's voting website.

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