Long lines and hour-long waits greeted some voters at the polls early this morning — amid conflicting predictions of whether Minnesota’s voter turnout will dip slightly or stay on par with the 2008 presidential race turnout.
After a long and costly election cycle, the polls opened at 7 a.m., and by many accounts, Minnesotans flooded in to cast their ballots. At stake is a tight presidential contest, a not-so-close U.S. Senate race, an up-for-grabs Legislature and two highly divisive constitutional amendments.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has predicted a voter turnout of just under 80 percent in Minnesota, which is average for presidential elections. It’s unclear whether the reports of long lines — typical when voters are traveling to and from work — represent heightened interest.
“We’ve been hearing reports of very active voting all over the county and we’re very excited about that — everything we’ve been expecting for a presidential election,” Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith said just before 10 a.m.
Smith, who noted that her predictions could be off, said fewer absentee ballots early on initially indicated to her that turnout could dip. But a surge in the last week suggests “it could be comparable to 2008” in Hennepin County.
Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky said absentee balloting was down there roughly 20 percent from 2008.
“I’m not sure what kind of prognosticator I am, and I’m not sure I want to make a living out of this,” he said. “My thought is our turnout is going to be a little lower.”
But he also reported early morning lines in precincts under his jurisdiction. The Seal Hi-Rise on University Avenue, for instance, drew a line of 80-plus people.
“If you have to wait, our view is, it’s better than having to wait after you’ve gotten off work,” he said about the long early morning lines.
Twitter was abuzz with reports of high turnout and long waits as Tuesday morning progressed.
More than 200 people were lined up outside the VFW on Lyndale Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis ready for an hour-long wait, an MPR reporter tweeted.
Another tweeter said the number of people waiting in his St. Paul precinct tripled to 100 since he’d arrived.
Mansky and Smith reported few problems with ballot counters or other routine malfunctions early on, and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office had no preliminary reports of fraud or voting irregularities.