Record number of Minnesotans voted early in 2016

A record number of Minnesotans chose not to wait until Election Day this year to cast their ballots. Voters in the metro and throughout the state waited in long lines until the polls closed Monday to vote early.

Minnesota has one of the longest early voting periods in the country. Early polls opened September 23, over a month and a half ago.

As of Monday morning, 568,000 absentee ballots had already been processed in Minnesota, compared to 183,000 on the same day in 2012, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon reported. 

“The numbers we’re seeing on early voting is shattering the old records of Minnesota,” Larry Jacobs, a political scientist with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, told Fox 9.

This election season’s absentee ballot and early voter increase has just as much to do with Minnesota’s history of removing voting barriers as it does with the fact that this is the first election season in the state that does not require voters to have an excuse to cast their votes early.

“The law was changed a couple years ago to allow no excuse early voting because we were seeing thousands of Minnesotans pretending as if they were going to be leaving the state in order to have the ease of early voting,” Jacobs said.

Despite the stunning rise in absentee and early voters, Jacobs does not expect a recount.

“Minnesota is known around the country as one of the very best states for administering elections,” Jacobs said. “I have no doubt our system of early voting will be clean, will be accurate, and will be comprehensive.”

According to the New York Times, in the last three elections Minnesota was the only state in which more than 76 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Jacobs expects to see that number increase to at least 80 percent with the state’s latest flexibility with early voting.

It is not too late to turn in an absentee ballot.  To return an absentee ballot on Election Day, voters must bring it to the address provided on the return envelope – not their polling place. The deadline to drop off an absentee ballot in person is 3 p.m. on Election Day.

Absentee ballots will be processed after closing time on Election Day. Early votes will be reported with day-of ballots as one total number for each precinct. 

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