St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and other city and school board officials urged voters to head to the polls Tuesday afternoon as early voting opened across Ramsey County.
Residents who want to avoid Election Day lines can pick from six locations, including four in St. Paul, one in Shoreview and one in White Bear Lake, to vote in the St. Paul mayoral or school board races, or for other races in the county.
Ten people are angling to replace Coleman, who is not running for a fourth term in St. Paul. There has been fierce competition between the candidates leading up to Nov. 7.
Nonetheless, voter turnout drops off in years when there are only city and school board elections, Coleman acknowledged Tuesday.
“But we know that those elections are really as important as any other election we can possibly vote in. It will really determine the direction of our city and the direction of our school system over the coming years. And so it is critically important that people vote,” Coleman said before casting his ballot at Martin Luther King Recreation Center.
Other St. Paul locations include Arlington Hills Community Center, the Ramsey County Elections office on Plato Boulevard and First Tee at Highland Golf Course.
Early voting ends Nov. 6, and people who vote during that time frame do not have to vote at their designated precinct. They can go to any of the six open locations in the county.
Minneapolis residents can also cast their ballots for mayor and other local offices before Election Day, but only at one location: the Early Voting Center at 217 3rd St. S.
It is the first city election where there are four St. Paul locations for early voting, after city officials pushed for expanded options in the city.
Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky said there was only one location for early voting last year in St. Paul, and on the day before the election getting through the line there took an hour and 15 minutes. Ramsey County will add even more early voting locations in the city and suburbs next year, Mansky said.
“A lot more people are going to opt to vote early,” he said. “You open the locations and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more convenient you make it, the more people will do it.”