Wait is over for Minnesota voters anxious to make 2020 picks

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A sign welcomes absentee voters.
Election staff prepare to sign in voters at the city of Minneapolis' new early voting site at 980 E. Hennepin Ave. on Thursday.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Claudia Zavala is firm in her desire to see Bernie Sanders as the Democratic presidential nominee — someone she’s supported since his first presidential run four years ago.

“I think he’s the candidate with the most integrity,” said Zavala, of Sauk Rapids.

Kathie Noga is just as sold on Elizabeth Warren.

“She’s a very intelligent and thoughtful person. She’s thought about how she would solve some of these problems,” Noga, of Minneapolis, said. “But yet on the other hand she’s finding what everyday people think at the same time.”

Both plan to vote early in the Minnesota primary because they don’t intend to change their minds. And Zavala is more than happy to beat the Election Day rush.

“It’s also just incredibly convenient, not having to wait in line,” she said.

Minnesota voters will be among the first to cast ballots when election offices begin accepting absentee ballots and open up a limited number of polling locations. It’ll look more like a full-blown election by the time March 3 comes around.

A sign sits outside a building telling people they can vote here.
Minneapolis' new early voting center at 980 E. Hennepin Ave. replaces the Third Street location downtown. However, voters may still cast early ballots at the Hennepin County Government Center.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

The campaigns of Sanders and Minnesota’s own Sen. Amy Klobuchar are staging big rallies on the first day to lock in votes and stir up excitement. Other candidates, including Warren, have been blasting out text messages to possible backers.

Maple Grove voter Bradley Gangnon has been on the receiving end of many.

"Yesterday I received seven text messages and 14 emails — just about early voting," Gangon said Wednesday.

He's planning to cast a day one vote for Klobuchar. He views her agenda as realistic and appreciates her bipartisan manner.

"I'm involved enough that if I go vote on Friday the phone calls and texts and all that will lay off for awhile," Gangnon said.

Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said 2020 hasn’t come soon enough for some voters.

“You know we’re seeing a lot of people that are really energized and excited to get out and cast their vote,” Martin said. “They’ve been waiting for some time to make their voice heard in the presidential contest.”

That said, the race is fluid. Since the DFL Party put forward 15 names for its Minnesota ballot, the field has shrunk by three. More could be gone by “Super Tuesday,” when the Minnesota votes get counted along with those in more than a dozen other states and U.S. territories.

The candidate churn is among the reasons why Secretary of State Steve Simon expects a quieter early vote period than the state has seen of late.

“I’m predicting we won’t have the groundswell of absentee activity for that very reason,” Simon said.

In Minnesota’s last general election, about a quarter of the votes were in prior to Election Day.

A sign welcomes absentee voters.
Election staff prepare to sign in voters at the city of Minneapolis' new early voting site.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Simon points to safeguards for people who see the candidate they voted for vanish or those who have a change of heart.

“You can claw back your ballot,” he said. “You can fish it out of the pile up to seven days before the election.”

Then it’s a matter of casting a substitute ballot — either by absentee or at a polling site.

Republicans probably won’t have the same kind of dilemma.

The state party put only President Trump’s name on the ballot. The move was upheld last week by the Minnesota’s Supreme Court. There will be space for write-ins.

Without any real suspense, Republican Chair Jennifer Carnahan said it won’t shock her to see higher Democratic turnout. But that won’t worry her.

“I don’t think the primary is a test drive for the general election on Nov. 3,” she said.

Besides, the eight months between the presidential primary and the general election is a lifetime in politics.

Election 2020: Minnesota’s presidential primary, explained

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