Iowans think they cast the first votes for president.
Iowans could not be more wrong.
The first votes for the next president were cast in Minnesota.
The first “I Voted” stickers hit the chests of Minneapolis voters at first light Friday morning — two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.
A group of supporters of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren parked an RV in the lot of the Minneapolis Early Voting Center and camped out overnight so they could be the first in line — maybe the first in the nation — to vote for her.
When election workers opened up shop in the Hennepin County Government Building, Jerry Gale was waiting. He’d been volunteering for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and he wanted one of her very first votes to be his. By lunchtime, the line of early voters stretched out the door. By midafternoon, 516 people had voted in person in Minneapolis, and Hennepin County had mailed out 6,447 absentee ballots.
Minnesota hasn’t treated itself to a presidential primary since 1992. This was too big an occasion for some voters to sit back and wait for Super Tuesday to come to them.
Super Tuesday is all the way in March.
“I was down in Iowa just a couple of days ago and they were super excited to be the first in the nation to vote,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told reporters. “And they are the first in the nation to vote — but after Minnesota.”
Minnesota’s votes might come early, but Iowa’s votes count first. Which explains why presidential candidates weren’t exactly crowding our diners and kissing our babies Friday as voters marked their ballots before an incoming storm dumped another foot of snow on everyone.
Candidate surrogates were out in force. A bundled-up U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar led a cheering crowd at an outdoor rally for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Frey and Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman talked up Klobuchar in a coffee shop. Voters tweeted out their “I Voted” stickers and their marked ballots and their cheery hashtags: #WinWithWarren, #TeamPete, #YangGang.
But not everyone who wants to vote gets to vote in the primary this year.
Because when you vote in Minnesota’s presidential primary this year, your party affiliation will be reported to the major state parties.
Not everyone loves the idea of ending up on a partisan spreadsheet. Nobody knows what the DFL or GOP will do with your voter information.
But if someone offered you a peek at the party affiliation of every journalist in the state — or every cop in town, or every teacher at your kid’s school, or every neighbor on your block — you’d probably peek.
I’d peek. I am very nosy. Please send spreadsheets.
No one knows whether the creepy partisan reporting requirement will scare away voters from the 2020 presidential primary.
Minnesota has had the highest voter turnout in the nation for years. This year, the stakes are higher, the field of candidates is even more crowded, and Minnesotans actually get to vote before half of them get knocked out of contention.
So if you can vote, keep hashtagging. Keep posting ballot selfies. Fill social media with your “I Voted” stickers from now until March 3.
Make every day Super Tuesday.
Show Iowa how it’s done.
You can find more information about how and where to vote at sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting.