Minnesotans Embrace Early Voting
The primary election is almost upon us, and Minnesotans will soon head to the polls to make important decisions on who will be on the November ballot for races such as governor, attorney general and U.S. House of Representatives.
But just how many people will head to the polls is another question.
One thing that’s clear about this year’s primary election is that Hennepin County has already broken an early voting record
As of Monday, Aug. 13, Hennepin County has received 31,400 absentee ballots. During the 2016 primary, the county only received 9,000 absentee ballots.
But experts say that early voting numbers won’t necessarily translate to high voter turnout on Tuesday.
“Now a lot of people are saying, well does early voting mean a lot more people are gonna vote? There’s not necessarily a correlation between early voting and overall turnout,” said Hamline University Political Science Professor David Schultz. “It may just simply be that more people will vote early because they find it convenient, and turnout isn’t affected by it. Or it could be a sign that early voting is a sign of overall increase in excitement about the election this year.”
Schultz says that over a 30-year period, the number of people who have voted in Minnesota primaries has gone down dramatically.
In the early 90s, about a third of registered voters voted in the primaries. But he says a 20 percent turnout for this election would be considered “pretty good.”
As for the record number of early voters, Schultz says it’s likely due to the fact that more people understand how the process works, and because the statewide races have drawn interest.
Early Voting Has Its Drawbacks
However, with new allegations coming out against Attorney General candidate Keith Ellison, and Gubernatorial candidate Lori Swanson over the past few days, people are also starting to see the potential downside of early voting.
“One of the risks you run with early voting is the fact that new facts might come out that make you change how you want to vote,” Schultz said. “And under Minnesota law, if you early voted, you can change your vote up until seven days before the primary. But in a story like this, which is literally breaking in the last 24 to 48 to 72 hours, voters lose that ability to be able to do that.”
Meanwhile, polls open Tuesday, Aug. 14 at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
If you want to take a look at your sample ballot before casting your vote, you can go to the Minnesota Secretary of State website.