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Be a Better Voter, week 3: What you need to know about campaign finance

It’s officially crunch time. Election Day is just three weeks away, and candidates for local, state and federal offices are preparing their final pushes as they campaign across Minnesota.

Early voting is well underway, with more than 85,000 absentee ballots already returned — roughly on pace with the 2016 presidential election and significantly ahead of the 2014 midterms.

As always, check out our voter guide for information about where major candidates for statewide and federal offices stands on the issues that matter most to you. Use our election calendar to automatically add key dates to your Google or iPhone. Head over to the Voter Information Project for information about all the candidates on your ballot. And don’t forget to subscribe to our morning politics newsletter to stay on top of all the latest Minnesota campaign news.

Just joining us? You can find weeks one and two of our guide to being a better voter at startribune.com

Three things to watch this week

  1. Federal campaign finance deadline: Candidates for the U.S. Senate and House, as well as political action committees (PACs), were required to final their final quarterly campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission on Monday. Included in these reports are details on how much money they raised — and from whom — between July 1 and Sept. 30, how they spent it, and how much money they have yet to spend (also known as “cash on hand”). Fundraising is an important measure of the relative strength and health of a campaign. There will be one more report due Oct. 25 that will include last-minute fundraising and expenditures. We’re compiling topline fundraising and expenditure numbers for major federal and statewide candidates here. Candidates for state offices also have an important date coming up: Starting Oct. 23, they must begin filing reports of major contributions within 24 hours of when they are received. Want to learn how to to locate campaign finance information yourself? Keep reading.
  2. Curious about Minnesota’s U.S. Senate candidates? We’ve got you covered: All week, we’re rolling out profiles of the four major-party candidates in Minnesota’s two U.S. Senate races. Here’s the first profile of Republican state Rep. Jim Newberger, the self-described “underdog” challenging Democrat Amy Klobuchar. While you’re at it, you can read our big profile of DFL governor candidate Tim Walz from last weekend.
  3. Online voter pre-registration deadline is today, Oct. 16!: If you want to register to vote online so you can vote early or apply for an absentee ballot, you need to do so by the end of the day! If you miss the boat, don’t worry: You can still: a.) request an absentee ballot and voter registration form to be returned at the same time; b.) register to vote in person at an early voting location any time before Election Day; or c.) register to vote at your polling location on Election Day. Information on how to register can be found here. Not sure of your registration status? Look it up here.

Three things to do

  1. Take a look at FEC.gov: Since today is a federal campaign finance deadline, we thought it would be a good opportunity to share some of the federal and state resources available to help you track the candidates on your ballot. For federal elections like those for president, Senate and Congress races, the Federal Election Commission website is the most comprehensive resource available. The candidates page is a good place to start. You can search candidates by name and office to see how much money they’ve raised, how much they’ve spent and how much “cash on hand” or debt they have.
  2. Too busy for that? Try OpenSecrets.org: Admittedly, FEC.gov can be a little intimidating. Fortunately, we have OpenSecrets.org, where the good folks at the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics have put a massive amount of effort into compiling, organizing and analyzing federal campaign finance data. First, read their “10 things every voter should know about money-in-politics” post. Then, head over to the congressional races page, where you can easily find information on every federal race and candidate. Want to dig right into Minnesota races? Here you go. You can drill down on every candidate to find a wealth of information about their top donors and the interest groups and industries from which they receive contributions.
  3. Check out the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board: At cfb.mn.gov, you can find campaign finance data for candidates for state offices, including governor, attorney general and the Minnesota Legislature. There’s a ton of information on this site, but if you want to see how much money the candidates are raising, go to the “Reports & Data” tab, where you can search by by candidate or by office. When you reach a candidate’s page, many of the topline numbers such as contributions, expenditures and cash balance (what Minnesota calls “cash on hand”) can be found in the “Financial Summary” tab. By the way, those 24-hour reports mentioned earlier will start showing up here on Oct. 23.

Resources

Our journalists have been hard at work this election season creating tools and resources to help you make your decision in November. Check them out here:

2018 Minnesota Election Guide: Find where major candidates stand on the issues.

Campaign finance:
Track who is ahead in the money race in key contests for governor, Senate and the U.S. House.

Election calendar:
Keep track of key dates, including voter registration deadlines and important planned coverage from the Star Tribune.

How to vote early:
Early voting in Minnesota started Sept. 21. Read our guide on how to cast your ballot.