A lot more people than expected voted in the Twin Cities elections this year

Some polling places in the Twin Cities even ran out of ballots.
Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

Tuesday's election wasn't a presidential or midterm election, but it still grabbed the attention of quite a few voters in the Twin Cities. 

And that's pretty surprising. 

Minnesota typically comes in at No. 1 for voter turnout for big races, such as presidential elections. For the 2016 election turnout in the state hit 74.72 percent, the highest figure in the country.

That's a heck of a lot higher than the typical turnout when there isn't a president or state and U.S. lawmakers on the ballot, such as this year. 

In 2013 (the last time both Minneapolis and St. Paul had mayoral elections), statewide voter turnout was about 17.3 percent. For the Twin Cities specifically, Minneapolis was 33 percent and St. Paul was 14.3 percent.

But 2017 proved to be different.

Minneapolis: Voter turnout hasn't been this high all millennium

Minneapolis Votes tweeted that this year was shattering voter turnout numbers from 2013, saying turnout was at about 43 percent this year. 

"That's a really good turnout. That's on par with 2014 midterm elections. … People are turning out everywhere throughout the city," Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl told the Star Tribune, noting more people probably came out to vote because of some competitive races in the city. 

If you look back at voter turnout history for municipal elections in Minneapolis, this year's is comparable to 2001. 

That year, voter turnout was 41 percent. 

Turnout dropped off after that: 30 percent of eligible voters voted in 2005, while just 20 percent voted in 2009 (the first year of ranked-choice voting).

St. Paul: Up significantly from the past two similar elections

Meanwhile in St. Paul, unofficial numbers show about 27 percent of eligible voters in the city cast a ballot in this year's election, Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky told GoMN. 

Historically, voter turnout hasn't been nearly as high in St. Paul, but this year's turnout was comparable to the early 2000s

In 2001 and 2005, more than 28 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. But voter turnout dropped to 16.2 percent in 2009 and to 14.3 percent in 2013 (the first year of ranked-choice voting in St. Paul).

How do the Twin Cities compare? 

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul saw higher voter turnout this year compared to the national average for municipal elections, which was about 21 percent in 2011, Governing reported

In fact, some polling places in St. Paul and Minneapolis ran out of (or were close to running out) of ballots Tuesday night, with officials saying the higher-than-expected turnout and some spoiled ballots (people filled them out wrong, so they had to take another one) were to blame.

Why does Minnesota tend to be so great at voting in presidential elections, but not so much in municipal races? 

The New York Times looked at it last year, saying same-day voting registration, a long early voting period and our "competitive and inclusive" politics all contribute to Minnesota's high voter turnout in presidential races. 

But not as many Twin Cities voters seem as eager to vote in municipal elections, and the calendar could play a big role in that. 

MinnPost said municipal races in Minneapolis and St. Paul are in odd-numbered years, meaning there aren't any statewide or presidential races to bring people to the polls. Plus, voters tend to not show up if they don't feel the race is competitive. 

That could by why more people voted in Minneapolis and St. Paul this year – they thought their vote would count more in some very tight races.

Next Up

Related