Minneapolis saw its highest turnout for a primary election in more than 50 years Tuesday, as more than 100,000 residents cast ballots.

Statewide turnout also was strong, said Secretary of State Steve Simon, who attributed the higher-than-usual turnout to people mailing in absentee ballots to avoid the chance of contracting the coronavirus at polling places.

He said there were no issues at any of the state’s 3,000 polling places that were open Tuesday.

Simon’s office was still tallying vote totals Wednesday, and the final tally likely won’t be known until late Thursday or Friday morning. State law required that ballots be postmarked on or before the day of the election and received in the mail no later than two days later.

The 103,222 ballots cast in Minneapolis as of 5 p.m. Tuesday beat the previous record of just over 101,200 cast in the primary election two years ago, according to spokesman Casper Hill.

A hotly contested DFL Party contest in the Fifth Congressional District, which encompasses Minneapolis, between U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and progressive newcomer Antone Melton-Meaux helped drive poll numbers, along with a ranked-choice City Council special election in the Sixth Ward.

Omar was leading Melton-Meaux by 18 percentage points as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Turnout also surged in Duluth, where DFLers Jen McEwen and Erik Simonson faced off for a state Senate seat. McEwen was leading 73 to 26% as of Wednesday afternoon, according to officials.

Primary turnout in Minneapolis had been on the decline for about 20 years until 2018, when more than 100,000 voted in a primary election for the first time since 1968. Only 17,521 ballots were cast in Minneapolis in a primary election in 1988, the lowest turnout in the last five decades, Hill said.

Tim Harlow