Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Absentee ballots are streaming to election offices across the state but very few of those early voters are new voters, according to a Star Tribune analysis.
Only 5.6 percent of the nearly 34,000 voters who have already had ballots accepted did not vote in the last midterm election year, 2010. Another five percent did not vote in 2010 or 2012, the last presidential election year.
The analysis indicates that despite pushes from both Democrats and Republicans, new voters are not yet availing themselves of the law that allows anyone to vote by absentee.
About 34,000 people voted by absentee ballot as of Oct. 14. Another 6,000, in small, rural precincts, voted by mail.
Of the people who cast absentee ballots, 29 percent also voted absentee in both the 2010 and 2012 elections. Another 31 percent went to the polls in both of those election years.
The analysis also shows that more voters who have already had ballots counted come from Democratic areas than from Republican areas. By county, by Minnesota House district and even by precinct, more ballots are flowing in from areas that lean toward Democrats than lean toward Republicans.
Nearly half of absentee ballots have been cast by voters who live in Democratic House districts, 32 percent came from those in Republican House districts and about 19 percent came from swing districts.
Minnesota voters do not register by party so the Star Tribune does not have access to the personal politics of voters.
Keith Downey, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, and Ken Martin, chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, have both been pouring over absentee voter list. Both parties have invested in identifying voters by party.
With that data, the DFL and the Republican Party have come up with different results.
Martin, the DFL chairman, said their numbers show that 59 percent of absentee ballots have been cast by voters they have identified as Democrats. Martin said many of those Democrats are infrequent voters -- exactly the demographic they have need to turnout if the DFL is to do well this year.
The Republican Party shows statewide 39 percent of absentee votes so far have come from Republicans, 36 percent came from Democrats and 25 percent came from independent or unidentified voters, Republican chair Downey said.
Across the state, significantly more voters are opting to vote absentee than had in the 2010 election, according to the secretary of state.
Compared to nearly 40,000 accepted ballots as of Wednesday, election officials had only accepted 23,000 absentee ballots by this point in the 2010 election.
This year for the first time, anyone who wants to vote absentee can do so regardless of whether they can show up at the polls on Election Day. Previously, voters would have to offer an excuse for why they needed to vote absentee.
Below, see the number of ballots already cast and accepted, by county.
Updated to reflect more specific numbers.
Wednesday was the latest filing day for U.S. House candidates and the cash is rolling in.
According to Federal Election Commission filings and information from campaigns, Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen lead all candidates in how much cash they have left in the bank. Although neither of their suburban districts are targeted by national outside spending, both have more than $1.5 million in their war chests.
In the targeted western Seventh Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson has raised and spent more than his Republican challenger Torrey Westrom and has nearly twice as much left in the bank.
According to FEC files, independent groups have pumped more than $4.8 million into that district, a thousand-fold more than outside groups spent in 2012. The district which has a Republican tilt but has long sent Peterson to Washington by overwhelming margins.
Outside groups have already spent $6.6 million in the highly northern Eighth District, which has swung between Democratic and Republican representation in recent years.
In that race, the candidates -- Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican challenger Stewart Mills -- have kept competitive in fundraising but Nolan has more cash on hand going into the final stretch. Mills has added to his cash haul by lending his campaign $250,000 so far.
See the other numbers available below. The chart will be updated as more numbers become available.
WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's ten members of Congress on Tuesday collectively asked for a meeting with VA Secretary Robert McDonald to talk about recent reports of falsified records at Minneapolis's VA hospital.
The request comes after VA records showed a neurology exam for 25-year-old Jordan Buisman was rescheduled four days after his death. The former corporal had been told he'd have to wait almost 70 days to see a specialist at the Minneapolis VA neurology clinic for his epilepsy, which was the reason he left the Marine Corps. He died 24 days before his appointment.
Four days later, someone wrote in his VA records that Buisman had canceled his neurology appointment. The story was first reported by KARE TV.
The VA Inspector General's office is currently investigating allegations of falsified records and manipulation with scheduling data. The delegation, Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Tim Walz, John Kline, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Erik Paulsen, Collin Peterson, Rick Nolan and Michele Bachmann, requested a meeting with Secretary McDonald once the findings are released by the IG.
"We are deeply troubled by serious allegations of falsified records and manipulation of scheduling data at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs VA Health Care System," the delegation wrote.
VA Secretary McDonald, who was just sworn in a couple months ago, said over the weekend in a speech in Cincinnati that, "we know we have to work harder to earn that trust back one veteran at a time."
WASHINGTON -- It's not often that Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan join together to support the same amendment.
On Thursday, an odd blend of bedfellows voted against a $5 billion measure to arm Syrian rebels in the fight to combat the terror group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which passed 273 to 156.
Bachmann, Nolan and Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum voted against the proposal. Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Keith Ellison joined Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen in support.
Bachmann tweeted after the vote: "Many of the so-called "moderate" rebels have already joined the cause of Islamic jihad. Concerned U.S. weapons could fall into enemy hands."
"Remember, last year at this time we were ready to attack (Syrian President) al-Assad and Syria. Now we appear in a tacit alliance with Assad and his allies to defeat ISIL," he said. "Today we appear ready to send $5 billion to the FSA ... The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result."
Paulsen said, in a statement, he supported the measure with reservations.
"I remain concerned about the administration's ability to effectively and appropriately vet Syrian opposition forces to ensure we are training groups aligned with our interest in defeating ISIL," he said, noting he found it "necessary to provide the president with this limited and short-term authority."
McCollum, in a statement, called the debate "rushed."
"The CIA is already training and arming Syrian fighters in Jordan, without congressional approval. How well has that worked? We are not discussing that as a body," she said.
The Senate takes this up Thursday. Sen. Al Franken in an interview on Wednesday said he had concerns about arming Syria and was still undecided.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama outlined a campaign Wednesday to launch airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq. Obama said he doesn't believe he needs Congressional approval for this military action, which will be conducted with allies. He will seek Congressional support and additional money to finance the operation.
Here are comments from some of Minnesota's Congressional delegation after the speech:
Sen. Al Franken, Democrat: "I want to find out more about the potential ramifications of these actions on the civil war in Syria, for more specifics about the coalition the administration intends to build, and about their ongoing efforts to stifle terrorist recruitment activities in Minnesota and around the country."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat: "I support targeted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as well as training and equipping the moderate Syrian opposition, and I also think it's critical that we work with our allies in the international community so we are united in our effort defeat this terrorist organization."
Rep. John Kline, Republican: "It's never a good strategy to telegraph to the enemy what options are off the table. As a 25-year Marine Corps veteran, the father of a son who has served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a member of the House Armed Services Commmittee, I will continue to ensure our allies and personnel in Iraq and around the globe are receiving the support they need to combat terrorism, while carefully reviewing additional military actions taken by the president."
Rep. Tim Walz, Democrat: "The president has the authority to expand strategic airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. I believe he should exercise that authority. Before taking any warranted action against ISIL in Syria, however, I believe the president should consult with Congress."
Rep. Michele Bachmann, Republican (via Twitter)
"The president gave a poll driven speech that has nothing in common with defeating a brutal enemy that has declared war on the United States."
"The president's so-called strategy offered virtually nothing new, and it's clear he doesn't understand the threat of Islamic jihad."