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UPDATE: Election officials preparing for high turnout

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: September 19, 2013 - 10:20 PM

Updated at 10:05 p.m. (note appended below)

Minneapolis officials are making staffing decisions for Election Day based on the possibility of a 75 percent voter turnout to ensure there are enough election judges at the polls. 

The city's elections director, Grace Wachlarowicz, asked the City Council Thursday to approve a list of election judges for the city's 117 precincts. Their expected number of judges, 1,700, is based on a turnout of 75 percent.

She said in an e-mail Thursday night that 75 percent turnout is not a prediction, but a guide for determining the number of judges needed. "We are using a 75% turnout to ensure to the best of our ability to have enough judges in the polls to serve the voters better" and overstaff rather than understaff, Wachlarowicz wrote.

The high estimate is based on "on trends, on what’s on the ballot," Wachlarowicz said in an interview Thursday morning. "And because we have an open seat for mayor, that’s why I went to the turnouts of past elections where we had an open seat for mayor."

While turnout reached 81 percent in 2012's presidential and state elections, no municipal election in recent city history comes close to 75 percent. The nearest was 46 percent in 1997. It was 45 percent in 1993, the last year with an open mayoral seat.

In 2009, the last city election, turnout was a paltry 20 percent.

Of course, it is wise to over-estimate in these areas -- a lack of election judges could create mayhem on Election Day.

And having enough election judges will be particularly important this year, since many voters will be using ranked choice voting ballots for the first time (not to mention the fact that they will have to find their top mayoral picks among a list of 35 candidates.)

Wachlarowicz said their goal is to have first-round results ready on election night. Some races, particularly those for City Council, may be declared unofficially at that point if candidates surpass 50 percent support.

Since no mayoral candidates are expected to reach 50 percent support on the first ballot, Wachlarowicz said they hope to have results in that race by the end of Wednesday.

Note: This story originally ran under the headline, "Election officials project 75 percent voter turnout." The headline and body of the post have been modified to reflect that 75 percent turnout is a basis for staffing decisions, rather than a prediction about what exactly will happen on Election Day.

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