Updated: 8:40 p.m. | Posted: 5:54 p.m.
It’s all over but the counting.
Minnesota polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday in what could be historic elections from counties to the state Legislature to the U.S. House.
As candidates for office across the state made their final campaign pitches, Minnesotans at the polls appeared to have encountered few issues while casting ballots, although at least one site in Chisago County, northeast of the Twin Cities, saw long lines.
Turnout was steady across the state in a day filled with important questions: Would voters reelect Gov. Tim Walz, giving DFLers and unprecedented four consecutive terms in office? Would Minnesota’s Iron Range continue to swing more Republican and hand victories to the GOP in key legislative districts? Would Minnesota’s DFL-GOP split in the Legislature, one of the few such divided legislatures in the country, shift?
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Voters came to the polls Tuesday ready to answer.
Avery Goodreau, who lives in Cloquet, cast his first vote ever at a polling place on the Fond du Lac Reservation south of Duluth.
“People really talk about making a change, but don't apply themselves to do it, and I had thought it was kind of people around us,” Goodreau said. “At the time we weren't old enough to vote. And now that we are, it feels like, if people who said those things really apply themselves and do it, it really could make a change.”
Goodreau’s friend Steven Martin, an enrolled member of the White Earth Band, also voted for the first time.
“It’s your choice. It’s all up to you. You have the power,” Martin said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much power they have,” Martin said.
Minnesota on list of monitored states
There were some concerns from election officials that conspiracy theorists or people rejecting the outcome of the 2020 presidential race might interfere with voting. But in Minnesota, election officials said there appeared to be few problems as of early Tuesday evening.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced earlier this week that they planned to send federal election monitors to 64 jurisdictions around the country, including Minneapolis, and Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
The agency didn’t specify why they’d chosen to monitor these locations in Minnesota, but in a statement said they’ve regularly checked in on jurisdictions since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in order to “protect the rights of voters.”
There were some hiccups. In Dakota County, Elections Director Andy Lokken said some voters early in the day complained that election judges were making them read the voter oath aloud, instead of just signing it.
Lokken said some election judges misinterpreted the training materials that explain voters must acknowledge the oath. The county intervened quickly to clarify the expectations for election judges, he added.
In Chisago County, voters reported long lines and wait times up to two hours in the rain at the Chisago Lakes Area Library in Chisago City.
Voter Jessica Zierke said she talked with an older voter whose husband did not vote because he in not able to stand for long, so he waited in the car while she voted.
County auditor-treasurer and election officer Bridgitte Konrad said voter turnout was especially high at precincts located within the Chisago Lakes School District, which has two ballot measures related to increasing school funding and improving school buildings.
Many Minnesotans happy with voting experience
Several students who voted at Grace University Lutheran Church, one of the polling sites on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, on Tuesday morning said they were happy to have been able to register to vote on Election Day.
U of M student Asabelle Pagano said she was impressed with the poll workers there who helped her reregister to vote.
“Especially when you’re working on a college campus i think you have to be really responsive and really welcoming for college students to not get scared away so i think they did a great job,” Pagano said.
Nicole Quinones, a Ph.D student at the U of M, said it was her first time voting in Minnesota and she was noticed a stark difference from her home state of Tennessee.
“I was really surprised at the amount of resources that the state puts towards voting, it was really reassuring to see, you know, coming from a southern state where I think there's more laws that attempt to prohibit or make it harder for people to vote,” Quinones said.
Student Diane Sherwin said she was motivated to vote because she wanted to protect “people’s rights to their health care and the right to choose.” Dhruv Balasubramanian, who voted at the University of Minnesota campus, said he was motivated by the crisis of homelessness.
"A lot of the lot of the ways of addressing it so far have just been leaving them with no place to go, but also having like police harass them," Balasubramanian said. I was "trying to vote for the candidates I think would best address this issue."
Voters outside the Kaposia Education Center in South St. Paul also reported positive voting experiences Tuesday morning. Dale Harteneck said he voted a straight Republican ticket in South St. Paul.
"Things are so upside down as far as law enforcement, as far as immigration, as far as inflation," Harteneck said. "All of those are on the ballot right now."
Julia Hagen, who owns and operates a local preschool, said she was deeply concerned that the Supreme Court opened the door to widespread abortion bans by overturning Roe v. Wade.
"Our basic civil rights are at stake and I just feel strongly that our bodies belong to us. And us alone,” Hagen said.
More early ballots cast than in 2018
Some of the strong turnout appears to be due to voters who cast absentee ballots or voted early. As of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the Minnesota Secretary of State reports that more than 650,000 early votes had already been accepted. That’s higher than the 638,000 early ballots that were accepted by the state in the previous midterm election in 2018.
Minnesotans are electing a governor, congressional representatives and local lawmakers, as well as statewide seats like attorney general and secretary of state.
Nationwide, the Associated Press reports that almost 45 million people cast their ballots early.
In Hennepin County, home of a strongly contested county attorney race before former head public defender Mary Moriarty and former judge Martha Holton Dimick, turnout by late Tuesday afternoon seemed to be on pace to exceed 2018.
Laura Laudenbach, elections division director for Stearns County, said the county ran extensive tests on equipment before voting day in order to be prepared. She said they were able to run ballots out to precincts that were running low on them before they ran out.
“Today has been a busy day, but nothing out of the ordinary from 2018, the last midterm,” Laudenbach said.
Some election results were expected after polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but it’s likely some counties won’t conclude their vote counts until at least Wednesday.
MPR News reporters Feven Gerezgiher, Grace Birnstengel, Jon Collins, Linton Ritchie, Nina Moini and Tim Nelson contributed to this story. Derek Montgomery, a photographer working for MPR News, also contributed.