Twin Cities polling places saw a steady stream of voters Tuesday evening, but by about 5 p.m. there were few signs of a late rush like the one in the early morning.
Polls remain open until 8 p.m.
Scattered minor issues were reported, such as a broken ballot box in one precinct that was replaced, but there were no big problems like door-busting lines or ballot shortages.
In St. Paul this afternoon, Katie Lamkin cast her presidential vote for Donald Trump as part of her straight Republican ticket. As a woman, she said it was a “really difficult decision.”
Lamkin said she cares most about not raising taxes. “I had to stop thinking about candidates and start thinking about issues.”
In Columbia Heights, Veronica Lothen cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton — reluctantly. “ It’s frightening,” she said. “I’m not sure things are going to be better.”
Earlier Tuesday, voters lined up at polling places across Minnesota, standing in lines that stretched into parking lots and around buildings even before polls opened at 7 a.m. as the long and divisive presidential campaign finally came to an end.
Poll volunteers at several precincts said lines started forming at 6:30 a.m. and doors opened to large crowds. The crowds thinned as the morning wore on though some precincts saw a bump at lunch time.
The early lines formed despite a record number of votes that were cast even before the polls opened Tuesday. More than 650,000 votes were cast through absentee and early voting, state officials announced Tuesday morning.
At Humboldt High School in St. Paul, head election judge Craig Willford said he expects overall higher turnout this election, but many votes came early. “It’s more convenient,” Willford said.
A line of more than 50 people were ready to vote when polls opened in Apple Valley. A steady stream of voters continued into the polls after that.
“It’s a bigger turnout,” said poll worker Amy Steeves.
Despite the rancor of the election season, people are being “very civil, Steeves said. “It’s about the right to vote.”
“They’re bringing their kids,” she said. “We’re not seeing campaign shirts or buttons.”
At Merriam Park Recreation Center in St. Paul, which had a steady rush of lunchtime voters, judges said 40 percent of the precinct had voted by midday. They had to turn away several people wearing political pins and shirts, reminding voters that any paraphernalia representing a candidate or party is not allowed.
No statewide race on ballot
The presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump is this year’s marquee contest. Clinton has led in all public polling of Minnesota, but Trump made a last-minute grab for the state’s 10 electoral votes with a brief Twin Cities visit over the weekend.
With no statewide race on Minnesota’s ballot for the first time in a dozen years, local political activity this year has pivoted around several competitive congressional elections, the battle for majorities in the state House and Senate, and city, county and school board elections in dozens of communities statewide.
In the Second Congressional District, which includes most of the southeastern Twin Cities suburbs and towns and rural areas to their south, Republican Jason Lewis faces DFLer Angie Craig for the seat being vacated by the retiring Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline. In the Third Congressional District, in the southwest Twin Cities, Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen is defending his seat against DFLer Terri Bonoff, a state senator from the area. In northeastern Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan is again sparring with Republican Stewart Mills, whom he beat two years ago.
These are likely to be the three closest congressional races this year, with incumbents on track for victory in the other five districts. There are many more competitive state legislative races, with all 201 state House and Senate seats on the ballot. The GOP is trying to hold its current majority in the 134-seat state House, while the DFL works to keep its majority in the 67-seat Senate.
A steady stream of voters headed to the polls in Lakeville where lines were short by midmorning.
Jake Helmandollar came out of his Lakeville polling place happy that this election is over, at least for him now that he’s voted. “It’s been annoying,” he said. “Just so negative.”
The choice for him was “voting for the lesser of two evils and cast his ballot for Trump. “I want to see more trust in our government.”
The voting precinct at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview was set up for big crowds. Voters could use a row of blue plastic voting cubbies or sit at a dozen round tables to ink in their ballots.
A steady stream of voters flowed into Blaine City Hall. Blaine resident Krista Carroll called the election “wildly disheartening” and lamented about the disappointing candidates for president.
“You would hope the best of humanity would be represented in our leadership. That wasn’t the case this time,” Carroll said.
Carroll said her 5-year-old daughter summarized the negativity of the election when she asked, “Are you voting for the man who hates women or the woman who lies?”
Carroll said she worries a Trump presidency would destroy the economy but she’s hoping voters will elect a Republican majority to the Senate to control a Clinton presidency.
At Mendota Elementary School in Mendota Heights, one voter said he was asked for identification even though Minnesota does not require voters to show ID.
“I thought it was un-American. If she’s doing this with me, is she doing it with other people?” the voter, Matt Kushner, said.
“I am a dark-complected man who is often mistaken for being Hispanic or Middle Eastern,” Kushner said. “I’m neither.” Kushner said he reported the incident to other poll workers.
Mendota Heights City Administrator Mark McNeill said it was a misunderstanding. He said poll workers denied asking for IDs, although some voters offered theirs at the entrance without being asked.
In Minneapolis, Yahye Musse emerged from the Brian Coyle Community Center with a smile on his face, a red “I Voted” sticker on his black jacket and I cigarette in hand.
He voted for Clinton because he’s a Democrat and she’d be the first woman president.
The Somali native said this was his second time voting in a U.S. presidential election. “It’s very different in Somalia,” Musse said. “No elections there. It’s better here.”
At the Coyle Center, in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, voters kept a steady pace at the polling place.
Because of the attention focused on the Somali community and Muslims in this election, the spot was an early favorite for media hoping to talk to voters. The neighborhood has a high East African immigrant population.
Election judges were watchful and reported no sign of attempted voter intimidation by third parties. Even the reporters were gone by midday as voters came and went, smiling and kibitzing with their friends along the way.
‘This is not the country I came to’
Annoulah Bahnem slowly shuffled into Humboldt High School on Tuesday morning, assisted by her stepson Takis.
They shared a booth to simultaneously cast ballots for Hillary Clinton. Bahnem, an elderly woman wearing a bandanna celebrating her homeland, immigrated to the U.S. From Greece in 1961. She has voted in every election since she became a citizen in 1966.
Upon emerging from the school, Bahnem kissed her “I voted” sticker and reflected on the vitriolic campaign season. “This is not the country I came to,” she said. “I’ve never seen this kind of election before.”
A longtime Clinton supporter, Bahnem called Trump untrustworthy and unkind. “He has no respect for [Clinton] or women,” she said.
Minnesota typically has among the highest voter turnout in the country. In the last presidential election, Minnesota led all states as 76.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, compared to the national average of 58.6 percent, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
And weather offered voters no excuses on Tuesday, with sunny skies and temperatures above normal across the state.
“There are no clouds, no problems driving to the polls, there is no snow cover in northern Minnesota, the winds are not strong and there is good visibility,” said Jim Taggert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. “There is no excuse for not voting.”
You can find your polling place and preview your ballot at StarTribune.com, which is also where you’ll able to find election results after the polls close.
Staff writers Patrick Condon, Rochelle Olson, Tim Harlow, John Reinan and Sharyn Jackson contributed to this report.