Low voter turnout in Minnesota has some suggesting election trend shifts

Voters in Minneapolis and St. Paul are electing their city councils, but not a lot of people are actually making the decisions.

Analysts are expecting turnout to be as low as 20% this year – a steep decline from 80% during the 2020 presidential election.

Early voting this year in both Twin Cities was about two-thirds of what it was in the 2021 off-year elections, and empty voting booths are a common sight during off-year elections like this one.

"I can tell you the headline tomorrow that I would write: ‘The people have not spoken,’" Hamline University political science professor and University of Minnesota Law School professor David Schultz told FOX 9.

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He has seen this pattern repeat previously.

Minneapolis maxed out at 54% turnout in 2021, but was below 20% in 2009.

St. Paul typically struggles to hit 20% in off-year elections.

"The theory historically for having local elections in an off-year is that if we had it in off years, they wouldn't get drowned out by the noise of presidential elections or Senate or something else," Schultz said.

He says it might be time to think about moving Twin Cities city council races to years with presidential or midterm congressional elections. That way you could expect more voters to weigh in on local decisions like pothole repairs, rent control, and police reform.

Schultz says St. Paul and Minneapolis council races seem to be coming down to progressive candidates against candidates running to their left. 
He sees Minneapolis Ward 8’s Andrea Jenkins as a bellwether.

"If she loses, this is a pretty good sign that we're going to see a pretty significant shift in Minneapolis politics," he said.

Some voters are seeing the same trends.

"But I think that there's one person who's a little more possibly moderate or at least sensible, and I voted for that candidate," Minneapolis voter Chris Smith told FOX 9 after casting his ballot.