Minnesota voter registration reaches 3.5 million as swing-state status draws attention

Voter registration is soaring in Minnesota as the state enjoys increased attention as a presidential swing state.

As of Tuesday, 3.5 million Minnesotans had registered to vote, an increase of 36,000 since the start of September. Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day, and the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves and WNBA's Lynx were among the groups holding sign-up events.

"This shows a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement," Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said in an interview.

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have both visited Minnesota in recent days, and both presidential campaigns are airing television ads across Minnesota. Biden leads public polling conducted in September by an average of 9 points, but Trump's campaign has maintained that Minnesota is in play

Minnesota's U.S. Senate candidates and several U.S. House candidates are also airing ads, increasing the spotlight on the Nov. 3 election.

Minnesota's voter registration is climbing this month despite being one of 19 states where voters can register on Election Day. Most states have a cutoff well before the election, up to 30 days before.

"If we’re seeing these kinds of numbers now without a cutoff, I can only imagine what we’ll see by Election Day – and even on Election Day as people register right there in the polling place," Simon said.

The Timberwolves and Lynx held an event at Urban Ventures, 2924 4th Ave. S, on Tuesday evening. Employees handed out voter registration forms and passed out donated food to families that stopped by. The event is the first of three that the organizations plan to hold in the Twin Cities to target underserved communities.

Other registration drives happened Tuesday at the federal courthouses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Concordia University, and a St. Paul church.

College students at Concordia were registering to vote for the first time, while some St. Paul residents were taking advantage of the help to re-register after a move.

"I thought I was already registered but that was my old neighborhood. I’m good now, registered today," said David Hall of St. Paul, who planned to vote for Biden. "It's important because I haven't voted since the (President Barack) Obama days."

Minnesota has around 4 million voting-eligible people. Simon said he expected about 3 million to vote, which would put turnout around 75 percent. Turnout was 74.7 percent in 2016.