Election judges were busy preparing for the start of a historic, nationally watched election Thursday that could remake the city of Minneapolis.
Voting in the municipal races — the first since George Floyd's murder by police — is set to begin Friday morning with a ballot that includes a question on whether officials should be allowed to replace the city's Police Department with a Department of Public Safety. Ballots will also feature questions on rent control and division of power at City Hall along with a near-record number of candidates vying to fill elected positions; 102 people have filed to run for public office.
Up for election are the mayor's office, all 13 City Council seats, and places on the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Park and Recreation Board. The city uses a ranked-choice voting system, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Voters' second and third choices will play a significant role in determining the winner.
City officials are expecting high turnout at the polls, with more than 250,000 Minneapolis residents registered to vote. About 153,000 early voting ballots have been printed, and officials have ordered an additional 183,000 ballots for Nov. 2. Voters casting their ballots in person or dropping them off will be required to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.
So far, the city has received about 3,200 requests for absentee ballots, and that number is expected to go up, exceeding the number of ballots mailed out in 2017, when the last municipal races were held.
After several challenges and court decisions in recent days, a state Supreme Court decision Thursday cleared the way for voters to weigh in on a question that will ask whether they want to allow officials to replace the Police Department with a new Public Safety Department that may or may not include police officers.
Election judges who speak multiple languages have received extensive training to assist voters and make sure the process is running smoothly, said City Clerk Casey Carl, who oversees elections. The city will also use its 311 system as a backup plan in case additional help is required. Voters with vision problems will cast their votes on a computer and a machine will help them print their choices on a ballot.