Minnesotans cast ballots early
ST. PAUL -- Finally. It is safe to say most Americans are happy Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, is here. Frustration and disgust in the battle between two unpopular presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, has spilled down onto other Min...
ST. PAUL - Finally.
It is safe to say most Americans are happy Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, is here.
Frustration and disgust in the battle between two unpopular presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, has spilled down onto other Minnesota races, where candidates now must wait to see who shows up at more than 4,000 precincts around the state.
With the presidential race creating havoc in the political system, few experts will venture a guess about what may happen.
Or maybe the question should be about what already happened. Election Day may be Tuesday, but 568,196 Minnesotans already have voted.
That is the word from the secretary of state's office and represents the most early voters ever. This is the first presidential election in which a state no-excuse early voting law is in effect.
The figure represents the absentee vote count plus mail-in ballots used in some rural predicts.
In the 2014 off-year election, the first time Minnesotans did not have to say why they wanted an absentee ballot, 147,944 ballots had been received by the same time. In 2012, the latest presidential election year, 183,495 had voted.
Two years ago, nearly 2 million Minnesotans voted in total, compared to almost 3 million in recent presidential elections. In presidential years, Minnesota usually has led the nation in turnout during the 2000s, with 70 percent to nearly 80 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.
For nine elections, Minnesota presented the nation's best voter turnout. The state hit a 50-year turnout low in 2014 and became only the six-best voting state.
On the day before the election, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence visited Duluth, after his presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, stopped by the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport on Sunday.
Pence, the first-term governor of Indiana, asked supporters to "pray with confidence" for the country and for a Trump victory, saying "if his people pray, he'll heal this land. One nation under God."
The vice presidential candidate predicted victory in Minnesota and across the U.S. and promised a new era of U.S. moral, economic and military superiority under a Trump administration.
Also Monday morning, officials of the state Democratic-Farmer Labor Party discovered "for Trump" painted under their logo on the sign in front of the St. Paul state office.
"It may make someone feel good to engage in this behavior, but trust me that childish acts like this only motivate us more for this final push," party Chairman Ken Martin said on Facebook.
On Sunday, Trump rallied thousands at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, saying he has a chance to be the first Republican in four decades to win Minnesota. Polls show Democrat Clinton leading the state, with a bigger margin than she has in many key swing states.
It was Trump's first campaign visit to Minnesota, which most polls to show in Clinton's camp. Clinton has nearly skipped the state, too.
While the Clinton-Trump race has received the most attention, Minnesotans also will decide all eight U.S. House members and 200 legislators (one seat will be decided in a February special election), as well as judicial and local officials.
Also on Tuesday's Minnesota ballot is a proposed constitutional amendment asking voters if a 16-member panel should decide how much lawmakers are paid. Legislators and the governor decide that now, but a vote in favor of raising pay usually backfires for politicians. Pay has remained at $31,140 a year since 1999.
If a voter opts not to check either "yes" or "no" on the constitutional amendment, it counts as a "no" vote.
Minnesota polls generally are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, and anyone in line at 8 p.m. must be allowed to vote.
However, some rural polls open at 10 a.m. and other rural voters have no polling places, mailing in ballots instead.
State law requires employers to give eligible voters time off to cast ballots, without losing pay.
While pre-election voter registration has ended, Minnesotans may register on Election Day.
Polling place locations and other election information is available at mnvotes.org.
Reporter John Myers contributed to this story, as did Rachel Stassen-Berger and David Orrick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a Forum News Service media partner.