More than 36,700 Minnesotans have already voted in this year’s presidential primary, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Absentee voting for the primary opened on Jan. 17, roughly six weeks before Super Tuesday, when residents in fourteen states — including Minnesota — will hold nominating contests. This year will be the first since 1992 that Minnesota has held a presidential primary instead of a caucus.
The vast majority of ballots requested and cast so far have been Democratic, which is to be expected since 15 Democrats’ names will appear on the ballot while President Donald Trump is the only Republican. Roughly 15% of ballots cast have been Republican.
About 50% of the 70,338 ballots requested by voters had been returned and accepted as of Feb. 21, according to the Secretary of State.
Ahead of March 3, it’s unclear whether the switch from the party-run caucus system to a state-run primary — enacted in 2016 following widespread confusion and long lines at many presidential caucuses — will affect voter turnout. Caucuses have long been criticized for creating barriers to voter participation.
A Star Tribune and MPR News poll conducted between Feb. 17 and Feb. 20 showed Sen. Amy Klobuchar with a lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Minnesota. Undecided voters made up the third-largest group.
Minnesota first started offering residents the option to vote from home with an absentee ballot in 2014, and county election offices also offer in-person early voting.