Based on the number of citizens who turned out, Minnesota’s March 3 Presidential Nominating Primary was a success.
This year’s primary was the first since 1956 that binds the parties to the election results. For years, Minnesota’s political parties chose their candidates at precinct caucuses where participants literally stood up for their candidates. Parties conducted caucuses this year but the business focused on issues and selecting candidates for other offices.
For the second election year, I was honored to be an election judge, helping voters exercise a basic right of citizenship.
As election judges, we didn’t know what to expect on election day with this new process. We predicted election day turnout would be lower than a general election. And with a 46-day no excuses absentee voting period, turnout on the actual election day was even harder to predict.
While turnout was below Minnesota’s typically nation-leading 70 percent in general elections, participation did top the caucus system.
According to Secretary of State Steve Simon, more than 885,000 Minnesotans voted, a statewide turnout of 21.7 percent. That’s a 177 percent increase in turnout above participation in the 2016 precinct caucuses.
Not surprisingly, Democrats cast 84 percent of the votes statewide because only Donald Trump’s named appeared on the Republican ballot.
Those separate ballots for each party was a new experience for Minnesotans because we don’t register with a party preference. As usual, who we voted for is secret…individual ballots have no identifying information. Election judges did their best to shield which ballot a person requested by among other measures never mentioning party names.
But for the presidential primary, a list of who selected which party would be provided to party leaders. The voters who questioned this change were more concerned about getting a blizzard of mail for political parties or candidates than about secrecy.
I think most voters would be more comfortable with one ballot for all parties.
We still have two more elections ahead: an Aug. 11 primary to select candidates for nonpresidential offices and the general election on Nov. 3.
Those elections will go smoother for you and speed your way through the polling place if you prepare now.
If you’ve moved, make sure you’ve updated your registration. That can be done on election day but it slows down the process. And you’ll need to bring a photo ID such as a driver’s license and a document with your new address. If your license has your new, correct address you’re all set. Otherwise you’ll need a bank statement, utility bill or lease to prove where you live. To avoid delays, update your registration now at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website: www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/
You need to vote where you live. I’ve helped one or two people in each election who think they can vote at any polling place.
Make sure you know your polling place location. Just because you’ve voted at the same location for years, don’t assume it hasn’t been changed. The Secretary of State’s website has a convenient poll finder and much more information such as information about early voting at www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/.
I’ve seen voters go to the wrong polling place because they’ve asked their neighbors where to vote. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. Streets determine precinct boundaries so your neighbor across the street may vote elsewhere.
When you arrive at the polling place, you’ll find a sample ballot listing all the candidates. If you haven’t done your homework, this is your last chance to check on candidates. I’ve seen voters scan the sample ballot and be surprised by all the candidate and offices they can vote for. We’re all focused on president and Congress, but there are many more local offices on the ballot.
During the 2018 election, I watched one young woman spend a good deal of time in front of the sample ballot with her smartphone researching all the candidates. I salute her diligence, but a little planning would have simplified her visit to the polls.
In the past three years, there’s been lots of talk about the security of our voting system. At least on the state and local level, our system is pretty secure. Minnesota uses paper ballots and there’s a documented paper trail of results. State and county election officials go to great lengths to make sure every voter who is eligible to vote gets to vote. We polling place workers take our oath seriously. We protect the integrity of the voting process and the security of the polls.
For years, Minnesotans’ turnout is the highest in the nation. Let’s keep the streak going.