Absentee balloting helped drive Minnesota's highest voter turnout in six decades

About eight in 10 eligible Minnesotans voted in this year's historic election — a rate not seen in 60 years and once again, so far, the highest in the nation.

The last time Minnesota's voter turnout topped 79 percent was when John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960. Prior to that, Minnesota's highest post-war turnout rate was in 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower won reelection — one of the few times the state voted Republican with such high turnout. At 78.8 perecent, the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush had a slightly lower turnout than this year, and Barack Obama's 2012 election also trailed just behind.

This year's turnout was driven in part by a record-shattering number of absentee ballots cast by voters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 101 million early ballots were estimated to have been cast nationally this year, according to the United States Elections Project. More than 1.8 million of those came from Minnesotans, representing about 56 percent of the total statewide vote.

Absentee balloting transcended regional boundaries, with many Minnesota counties seeing at least half of their votes being cast before Election Day.

Percent of vote cast absentee

Preliminary statistics show voter turnout surges in many counties as compared to 2016, with high levels of voter engagement in heavily DFL areas like Hennepin and Ramsey helping propel decisive Democratic wins in statewide contests.

Yet it was counties like Carver, Washington, Scott and Dakota in the Twin Cities suburbs that represented the highest turnout rates in Minnesota this year, another signal of significant suburban mobilization in favor of Democrats.

Turnout was up all across the country, as Joe Biden claimed the presidency with more than 77 million votes nationwide, while President Trump garnered more votes than any previous incumbent president with 72 million.

Estimates and projections from the United States Elections Project (which may be subject to change) show Minnesota narrowly leading state-by-state voter turnout rankings, once again securing a reputation for high levels of civic engagement.


Data sources: Minnesota Secretary of State, United States Elections Project, U.S. Census Bureau | data current as of 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020.

Note: preliminary county-level turnout is calculated using citizen voting age population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012-2016 and 2014-2018 5-Year American Community Surveys as a proxy for voting eligible population.