More Minnesotans have voted using absentee ballots than did in either the 2002 or the 2006 primary, the Minnesota Secretary of State said Friday.
According to Secretary Mark Ritchie 21,703 voters have already cast absentee ballots for Tuesday's primary. In the 2002 primary, 18,850 cast absentee ballots and in 2006, 19,859 cast absentee ballots.
"These numbers are encouraging and may indicate that Minnesotans are engaged and are planning ahead knowing that they may be away on the Aug. 10 primary day," Ritchie said in a news release.
Maybe the higher than normal figure means that the predictions of low turnout will be wrong. Perhaps the contested DFL gubernatorial primary and other party contests have gotten folks to vote this summer and people are feeling more engaged in politics.
But the numbers may also show that more people may be traveling in August than September thus casting absentee ballots this year and the option to vote absentee has gotten more publicity in the past year -- remember the 2008 Senate race? -- than they had been given before.
As of late Friday, 23,508 Minnesotans had cast absentee ballots, according to John Aiken, spokesman for the secretary of state. That number beats the records all the way back to 1990 except for one crucial year -- 1998.
In 1998, the last seriously contested gubernatorial primary known as the "my three sons" primary, 25,257 Minnesotans cast absentee ballots.
The number keeps ticking up. According to Ritchie, as of 4:45 p.m. Friday 25,022 absentee ballots had been cast. That puts the 2010 achingly close to beating the 25,257 number and that's before the last few days of ballots.