Joining a line of lunchtime voters at Hennepin County Elections in Minneapolis on Wednesday, Cady Mattson did a little dance as she dropped her ballot into the silver secrecy box. The 27-year-old said she fears chaos on Election Day and wanted to be sure her vote counts.
“For me it was really, really important to come and cast my ballot in person early just so I know that it’s in and that it’ll be counted,” Mattson said.
Past predictions of youth voter mobilization have often fallen short. But although turnout among young voters has often been low, youth in Minnesota and throughout the country are voting early in record numbers this year.
Millions of people, and more than 5 million voters between the ages of 18 and 29, have already voted by mail or at early voting sites, according to the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE).
More than 132,000 early votes have been cast by Minnesotans between the ages 18 and 29, enough to make a difference in a close election. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory over Donald Trump in Minnesota was fewer than 45,000 votes.
By this point in 2016, fewer than 13,000 votes had been cast by young people in the state, according to the CIRCLE data.
While the numbers don’t reflect voters’ candidate choices, the data firm TargetSmart estimates that Democrats have cast more than half of early votes nationwide.
Sisay Shannon-Tamrat’s mail-in ballot didn’t make it on time when she tried to vote from college in Boston in the 2018 election, and she was determined to make sure that did not happen again. “The hassle of having to vote later on when everything’s going to be super crowded scared me, so I’m voting now,” she said.
While the Trump campaign has emphasized large rallies with voters of all ages, Democratic challenger Joe Biden and his surrogates have targeted college campuses, often seen as bastions of young liberals.
On Oct. 18, Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren campaigned for Biden at Macalester College in St. Paul. A few days earlier former Second Lady Jill Biden made a stop at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, where senior Shawn Day urged a group of students to vote early.
The young voters emphasized the ease of voting early.
“If anybody’s holding back because they just feel overwhelmed, I would just say take the first step and make that habit, and it will be a habit you have for the rest of your life,” Mattson said.
To find an early voting center, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website at sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting.