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Minnesota tallies 1.7 million early votes on day before Election Day, 58% of total 2016 turnout

Steve Simon
Steve Simon. (Forum News Service file photo)
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ST. PAUL Minnesota officially matched 58% of its turnout for the 2016 general election Monday morning, Nov. 2, according to the latest figures from the secretary of state's office

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Election officials across the state have so far accepted a total of 1,716,575 absentee ballots submitted either in person or by mail, twice the total number of absentee ballots requested in 2016.

On a video call with reporters Monday morning, Secretary of State Steve Simon said it's "entirely possible" that Minnesota will beat its "modern-day record" of 77% total turnout in 2008 when all votes have been counted.

"It's pretty electric out there right now, on all sides," Simon said. "On the left, right, red, blue, people are fired up to vote. It would not surprise me to smash the 77% modern-day mark."

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Simon declined to predict whether Minnesota will break its all-time turnout record of 83% in 1956 but said it's "quite likely" that turnout will exceed that of the 2016 general election. Approximately 75% of eligible voters participated in that race, or about 2.9 million people.

It doesn't appear likely that weather will dampen turnout in Minnesota on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at least in the literal sense. The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies and moderate temperatures in parts of the state.

Temperature highs in the low 60s and low 70s may be recorded in places west of the Minnesota River Valley, according to a late Monday weather service forecast.

Secretary seeks to preserve votes in state, local races

With its history of high voter turnout, Minnesota is among those states that tweaked election rules to accommodate an anticipated surge in mail-in and early, in-person voting prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. The secretary of state's office had even decided to accept mail-in ballots received up to a week after Election Day so long as they were postmarked Tuesday, Nov. 3.

But a federal court panel ruled late last week that the Simon's office erred in doing so. Mail-in ballots arriving after Tuesday and bearing the correct postmark will still be accepted and counted, per the ruling, but must also be held separately in the event that another court ruling pronounces them invalid and orders them to be thrown out.

Simon told reporters Monday morning that he believed a legal challenge to the ballots themselves will likely be mounted if there is a slim margin of victory in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Though his office declined to pursue a stay of last week's ruling, Simon said it would defend in court that ballots arriving after Election Day should still be counted in state and local races.

"I don't know what this court is going to do, but our strong, strenuous argument will be to limit its effect, if there's any effect, only to the presidential contest," he said.

338K absentee ballots outstanding

All told, 2,055,519 Minnesotans had requested absentee ballots by Monday morning, of which 338,944 remain outstanding.

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Some of those may already be in the mail and pending delivery, while others may be filled out and waiting to be dropped off by their requesters. Simon declined to speculate as to how, or if, they may ultimately be cast.

By comparison, 742,021 absentee ballots were requested in the 2016 general election, according to the secretary of state's website. About 689,722 of them were filled out and submitted.

There are approximately 3.5 million registered voters in Minnesota.

Any voter who put their ballot in the mail and is now worried about it arriving in time to be counted can still vote in person under state election rules: A vote in-person cancels out the voter's mail-in ballot.

Computer glitches fixed

Simon also said the computer glitches that ground his office's voter registration and ballot status checking systems to a halt over the weekend have been resolved. Local election offices reported them to be functioning properly on Sunday morning, Nov. 1, and again on Monday, he said.

Simon said that none of the errors affected voters ability to cast ballots on Saturday, Oct. 31, when polling places across the state remained open for early voting.

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