With four weeks until Election Day, Hennepin County has already seen a record number of people preregister to vote.

More than 740,000 Hennepin County voters have preregistered, breaking 2008’s mark of 720,000 preregistered voters.

“This is a significant increase,” said Ginny Gelms, Hennepin County’s elections manager. “I’m expecting it to continue to go up.”

Voters have until Oct. 18 to preregister. Election Day this year is Nov. 8, and this is the first presidential election for which voters can preregister online in Minnesota.

Gelms said the high turnout is likely due to the increased interest in this year’s election, as well as the ease of the online system for voters. It’s also more convenient for election staffers, Gelms said.

“We have a high volume of work, but we’re able to keep up with it because it’s online,” she said.

Ramsey County election officials said they don’t expect this year to top the county’s 2008 record of 317,000 preregistrations. So far, 299,000 Ramsey County voters have preregistered.

As before, Minnesota voters will be able to register to vote on Election Day itself.

Historic early voting

With interest in this year’s presidential election high, early voting also is setting records: Three times as many Minnesotans have requested early absentee voting compared to the previous presidential election. This is the first presidential election in which Minnesota voters can cast absentee ballots without needing to cite a specific reason for not going to the polls.

Hennepin County is expecting a historic number of absentee votes. So far, 53,000 absentee ballots have been mailed out or issued, with 19,000 ballots returned and accepted. County officials project that more than 150,000 absentee ballots will be cast in this year’s election, far exceeding the record in 2008 of 85,000 ballots.

“It completely blows the record out of the water,” Gelms said.

In Ramsey County, 20,000 absentee ballots have been mailed or distributed. Of those, about 6,000 have been submitted and accepted — more than double the number of absentee ballots submitted in the same period in 2012.

But it’s still too early to determine whether voter turnout this year will set a new state record.

“A lot of people are choosing to do [early voting],” Gelms said. She added that it would be interesting to figure out how many of them wouldn’t have turned out to vote on Election Day.

Hacking concerns

At last week’s County Board meeting, commissioners raised questions about the possibility of hacking the election, especially because the county is rolling out e-poll books to electronically check in and register voters, rather than using traditional paper rosters.

Gelms said that if e-poll books were hacked, the county still has paper rosters. She said e-poll books are actually more secure because county officials could wipe them remotely if they were stolen. E-poll books don’t affect the counting of ballots, she added, which is done with the same machines as before in precincts. Hennepin County officials said that the county has done a risk assessment and that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has scanned the county’s networks.

Voters can cast absentee ballots in person through Nov. 7 at most city halls or by mail (after requesting a ballot at mnvotes.org). To preregister before Oct. 18, go to mnvotes.org/.