Absentee ballots are streaming to election offices across the state, but very few of those early voters are new voters, according to a Star Tribune analysis.
Only 6 percent of the more than 34,000 voters who have already had absentee ballots accepted this time did not vote in the last midterm election year, 2010. Another 5 percent did not vote in either 2010 or 2012, the last presidential election year.
The analysis indicates that despite pushes from both Democrats and Republicans, new voters are not yet availing themselves of the law that allows anyone to vote absentee.
Of those who have cast absentee ballots, 29 percent voted absentee in both the 2010 and 2012 elections. Another 31 percent went to the polls in both of those election years.
The analysis of ballots accepted as of Wednesday shows that an overwhelming number of the early voters are older voters. Nearly 65 percent are 65 years old or older. Only a little more than 6 percent are younger than 34.
The analysis also shows that more of those absentee voters come from Democratic areas than Republican ones. By county, by Minnesota House district and even by precinct, more ballots are flowing in from areas that lean toward Democrats than lean toward Republicans.
Nearly half of counted absentee ballots have been cast by voters who live in Democratic House districts, with 32 percent coming from Republican House districts and about 19 percent from swing districts.
Minnesota voters do not register by party, so the Star Tribune does not have access to voters' personal politics.
Keith Downey, chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, and Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, have both been poring over the absentee voter list. Both parties have invested in identifying voters by party.
With that data, the DFL and the GOP have come up with different results.
DFL Chairman Martin said their numbers show that 59 percent of absentee ballots have been cast by voters identified as Democrats. Martin said many of those are infrequent voters — precisely the demographic they need to turn out if the DFL is to do well this year.
Downy says the GOP's analysis shows that 39 percent of absentee votes statewide have come from Republicans, 36 percent from Democrats and 25 percent came from independents or unidentified voters.
Across the state, significantly more voters are opting to vote absentee than had in the 2010 election, according to the Secretary of State.
Compared to nearly 40,000 ballots that had been accepted as of Wednesday, election officials had accepted only 23,000 absentee ballots by this point in the 2010 election.
This year, for the first time, anyone who wants to vote absentee can do so regardless of whether they can show up at the polls on Election Day. Previously, voters would have to offer an excuse for why they needed to vote absentee.
The Star Tribune found that ballots are being cast at a quicker pace as the election nears.
When the absentee ballot period opened on Sept. 19, only a few dozen Minnesotans were voting each day. In contrast, more than 4,000 ballots were accepted on Tuesday alone.