As Election Day approaches in Minneapolis, we’ve informally taken the pulse of some voters and found them often less than confident in their knowledge of the issues at stake and the candidates’ positions — or even who the candidates are. Minneapolis residents can still vote early up to Monday, November 6, the day before Election Day. Beginning September 22, city voters could absentee vote by mail or in person.
Casey Joe Carl, Minneapolis city clerk, told the MSR last week that to this point there has been a 25 percent increase in absentee balloting and early voting ballots: 2,835 in 2013 to 3,549 this year, as of October 20. Carl also predicts a higher number of absentee ballots will be cast in this election over the 2,835 cast in 2013.
Voting guides were mailed on Wednesday to city residents and should reach households by Saturday, said Carl. “It will be sent to every household whether you’re registered or not, whether you are a voter or not, whether you ever voted or not, whether or not you are a new resident. I think it is going to be tremendous.”
The full guides are in English only, but Somali, Spanish and Hmong languages are on the front.
Carl said his office was diligent in disseminating all election information as early as this summer. “We made the effort, but the question is did people get it. We called newspapers and put out press releases. We put it on our web site. We went to neighborhood groups and did presentations. We had a voter outreach team that went out to the community all summer long to [talk] about Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).”
RCV was adopted in Minneapolis in 2006, which eliminated city primaries. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference on the ballot: first choice, second choice and third choice. The winning candidate must reach the 51 percent “winning threshold.”
However, there are some who are still unaware of RCV. “I’m totally out of the loop,” said Lee Kirk, age 43.
“What is it? I did not know that,” said Eva, a single mother. “I’ve only voted in presidential [elections].”
“I read a bio on all of the candidates maybe three months ago,” said David Walker. “I was hoping everyone would eliminate themselves so I can focus on just two.”
Dorothy Jones said she became aware of RCV from television news reports.
Carl said that in his experience as city clerk, “The things that really drive people out to vote is competitive campaigns and controversial issues.”
As of 2000, in six previous elections all but two city wards had higher voter turnout percentages from mid-60s to high 80s. Ward 5, which mostly comprises the North Side, and Ward 6, which includes the Cedar-Riverside area, have historically posted voter turnouts at least 20 percent lower than the other 11 wards.
“But this year…could be different.” Clark surmised. “Ninety-eight percent of early voting turnout is from Cedar-Riverside. That ward is going to have a huge turnout. There are some highly competitive — almost controversial — campaigns happening in [Ward 6]. You will see some high turnouts.”
Kamaal, a 32-year-old man from the Ward 6, said that he has already voted. When asked his thoughts about the historically low voter turnouts in his ward, Kamaal told us that it might be because the area has many East Africans and other immigrants. Many might not be fully educated on the voting process.
“This election is a big election and big changes. I want to see the people [who win the election] to represent in the community and do for the community,” he said.
The MSR asked other residents who have either voted or plan to vote in this year’s municipal election for mayor, city council, Park Board and Board of Estimate and Taxation.
“Do I think I am real informed? No, I am not,” said Steven Robinson. He is a little informed on the mayoral race, but “I couldn’t tell you who is running for the Park Board.”
“I will be at the polls, even if I don’t know the candidates. I will try to do some research before I get there,” said a Black man who declined to be identified. “I have a right to vote and I should vote for the candidate of my choice.”
“I know some of the issues that are going on, but I don’t know enough about the specific candidates,” said Alsherif, adding that she will vote for candidates “who are for a better educational system, specifically elementary and high school. Not just for funding but the emphasis in hiring teachers and what we are teaching in our schools.”
Eva is “somewhat informed” as Election Day approaches. “My mom is very informed. I know there are people who are more informed than I am. I probably will go in and vote for someone I know,” she told us.
Kirk, a 43-year-old local barber, said, “I understand some of the things that affect me directly. I hear a lot of people talk about health care, and that affects me directly. When it comes to city elections, I usually follow behind my [24-year-old] son” [on how to vote].
“It’s always crime for me…not enough police, and over-policing” as an issue in any election, stressed Walker, a business owner on West Broadway.
“Like many people, I tend to vote for those I know rather than the best candidate. Knowing what I know right now,” said Steven Robinson, “I will probably vote for the current mayor, whether I think she is the best candidate or not.”
“All elections are important,” said a 70-year-old Northside Black woman who has already voted. She spoke on condition that her name be withheld. “The main issue for me is what is going on in the city with the police department. The way my tax dollars are being spent was another issue for me, [and] what’s happening on the North Side. We don’t have enough businesses.”
And finally, Carl said the downtown voting center, located near the corner of 3rd Avenue South and 3rd Street South, is open every day up to Election Day. Hours are 7 am to 6 pm Wednesday; Thursday and Friday 9 am to 4 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 12 noon to 5 pm; and 8 am to 5 pm Monday, November 6.
Election Day voting hours are 7 am to 8 pm.
“If you are in line on Election Day at 8 o’clock, even if the line is around the block, don’t leave – stay in line,” Carl advised.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.