Minneapolis shattered its record for the first day of early voting Friday and also sent out an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, as people prepare for a contentious presidential election during a pandemic.
The city announced that 915 Minneapolis residents voted in person Friday, far surpassing the previous record of 571 people voting on the first day of the 2017 municipal election.
The city said it also mailed out 114,873 ballots on Friday. The city has about 260,000 registered voters.
“That’s huge,” said Grace Wachlarowicz, the city’s director of Election & Voter Services. She added that people should expect many aspects of this year’s election to feel different from past presidential elections.
Because of mail processing times, people who previously requested mail-in ballots should expect to receive ballots about seven to 10 days later, Wachlarowicz said.
People who haven’t yet requested a mail-in ballot can still do so. The city recommends doing that by Oct. 20. People can request one on the Secretary of State’s website. They can also call 877-600-VOTE (8683) for help over the phone.
Minneapolis voters can choose to return their ballots in the mail, or they will be able to drop them off at the city’s Early Vote Center, 980 E. Hennepin Av., or the Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St. The city plans to announce additional locations for ballot drop-offs soon.
People who want to vote early and in person can go to the Early Vote Center or the Hennepin County Government Center between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Those hours will be extended closer to the Nov. 3 election.
Wachlarowicz said the city plans to open additional early voting centers closer to the election. People who cannot safely enter the buildings for health reasons, including COVID-19 risks, can also request to vote curbside, she said.
To accommodate the dramatic increase in requests for mail-in ballots, and safety precautions required by the pandemic, the city is increasing staffing in its elections division.
Wachlarowicz said about 100 people are helping with election operations — up from about 60 in a typical election — and the city plans to bring in additional workers as they start processing the ballots that return. To help cover election costs, Carl said the city has been preapproved for a grant, estimated between $2 million and $3 million, from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life.
People could see some partial, unofficial voting results on Nov. 3, Wachlarowicz said, but the final vote counts will not be confirmed until Nov. 13. Because of state rules, the city will accept mail-in ballots that are received up to Nov. 10, provided they are postmarked on or before Election Day.