Biden wins Minnesota

Published 12:33 am Wednesday, November 4, 2020

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MPR News Staff

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has won Minnesota, according to the Associated Press. With 10 electoral votes at stake, it was a state he needed, one that Republicans nearly won in 2016.

Biden held a 53 to 45 percent lead over President Donald Trump with about two-thirds of expected voting completed.

Joe Biden

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Races were called by midnight for five of Minnesota’s eight U.S. House members. DFL Reps. Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum and Dean Phillips won reelection to the U.S. House as did GOP Reps. Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber, according to the Associated Press.

Incumbent DFL Reps. Collin Peterson and Angie Craig and GOP incumbent Jim Hagedorn remain in contests too close to call.

In the race for U.S. Senate, DFL incumbent Tina Smith was outpacing challenger Jason Lewis close to midnight.

Minnesotans streamed to the polls in big numbers Tuesday with lots of anticipation but no widespread problems as Election Day gave way to election night. Polls closed at 8 p.m., but in many places around the state, people were done long before then.

Scattered power outages and reports of people lingering outside of polling places appear to have been resolved relatively quickly, said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, calling it a “superb day.”

“We have not heard yet of fights over masks, fights over political apparel, fights over eligibility, fights over attempted or perceived voter suppression efforts,” he said.

While Minnesota isn’t considered a critical swing state, it has received plenty of presidential attention this year.

The state had a surprisingly tight finish four years ago, with Democrat Hillary Clinton edging Republican Donald Trump by about 45,000 votes of the 3 million cast.

It gave Republicans hope of snapping Minnesota’s long Democratic win streak at 11 consecutive presidential contests in the blue column. Democrat Joe Biden visited the state twice during the campaign this fall, while Trump held several large rallies in Duluth, Bemidji and Rochester.

Capitol control

While the battle for president and other federal elected posts has captured much of the attention in the political cycle, the control of the Legislature may be as important as any fight in Minnesota — the only state in the country with split control of the Legislature.

Republicans have a 35-32 majority in the state Senate, while Democrats have a 75-59 edge in the House.

With DFL Gov. Tim Walz in office for the next two years, the 2020 election will decide whether Republicans maintain a share of power in St. Paul, or if Democrats take complete control.

That could determine whether Democrats are able to draw congressional and legislative districts during redistricting next year, or if a stalemate forces a nonpartisan map, as has happened the last several rounds of redistricting in Minnesota.

Redistricting could be more important than usual this year, with Minnesota on the cusp of losing one of its eight seats in Congress, potentially forcing a wholesale redrawing of the map.

Other political issues that could come to the fore if Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature include the state’s next budget, the state response to COVID-19 next year, tax increases to pay for roads and mass transit, and marijuana legalization.

Candidates from both of Minnesota’s two marijuana parties pulled in tens of thousands of votes in the statewide U.S. Senate race and enough to be potential factors in some key congressional races, including the 1st and 2nd Districts.

In some pivotal legislative races, candidates from the Grassroots-Legalize Party and Legal Marijuana Now Party were netting notable vote tallies. It was too early to say if their presence would tip any races.

‘My vote counts’

Early voting this year was strong given concerns about COVID-19. Minnesota’s 1.85 million early votes represent about 62 percent of all 2016 turnout and about 45 percent of total eligible voters.

Many, though, still wanted to vote the traditional way, on Election Day at a booth in their polling places

In Anoka County, Alisianna Ruiz was in line early in Blaine. She said she wasn’t worried about mail-in voting but cast her ballot Tuesday because feels empowered on Election Day.

“I want to make sure my voice matters, my vote counts,” Ruiz said, who is supporting Joe Biden. “It definitely a different type of environment in this election. You know there have been one or two where I haven’t voted. I’ll never make that mistake again.”

In Frohn Township in Beltrami County, northern Minnesota voter Fritzy Nipp called in-person voting “the American way. I’ve had to vote absentee before and you just don’t get the same feeling,” said Nipp, who is supporting President Donald Trump for reelection.

In the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, Muhubo Ali, 25, said her Election Day voting went smoothly despite fears about the country’s polarized political climate.

She said she expected people of Somali descent, like her, to turn out in larger numbers.

“I think it’s just very important that we do our civic engagement and our duty,” Ali said. “It’s very important that we stay informed, whether it’s the presidential vote or just local elections.”

In northwestern Minnesota, 34-year-old Brynden Wallin voted at her Moorhead precinct as she usually does, but she stayed in the parking lot Tuesday with the rear hatch of her car open, handing out bottles of water and snacks to voters.

Wallin decided she wanted to help keep voters happy if they had to wait in line. Many stopped to grab a snack as they left the polling place. It helps keep Wallin busy on what she said is a very stressful day.

“I’m nervous,” she said. “I think I slept like four hours last night, but fingers crossed, things pull in our direction. I voted Biden.”

Farther north in Polk County, the mood of the electorate could be measured in sweets.

At the bakery section of Palubicki’s Grocery store in Fosston, Trump cakes — essentially birthday cakes with Trump campaign slogans instead of the usual, birthday related inscriptions — have been selling like crazy.

“We had our case completely full this morning, and it was totally sold out by 8,” said store owner Leah Palubicki. A Facebook post about the cakes went viral. She said she got some blow back for ignoring the other side, so she made a few pans of Biden cookies. In all — she sold 40 Trump cakes — just one Biden cookie. It is Trump country.

‘Count and tally every last vote’

As of Monday night, about 297,500 absentee ballots, and ballots from mail-only precincts, had not yet been submitted, although some of those could have been in transit or belong to voters who have decided to vote in person on Election Day instead.

The fate of in-transit ballots was thrown into doubt by a recent federal court ruling that said tardy ballots — ones postmarked by Election Day but arriving after Tuesday — could eventually be removed from vote totals. Officials must segregate ballots that come in late pending additional litigation.

Simon has said local elections officials plan to count ballots that arrive through Nov. 10.

“We’ll do as the court has ordered and segregate the ballots,” he said. “But we are going to count and tally every last vote for every last office.”

Lake of the Woods County is one of the only parts of the state where the election process hasn’t changed at all.

It’s rural, sparsely populated and as far north as you can get without crossing into Canada. And for the last 30 years, 15 of its 17 voting precincts have been mail-in only.

The two in-person polling places are in Baudette. County Auditor Lorene Hanson said about two-thirds of the roughly 2,000 registered voters automatically vote by mail. This year, they got a few hundred extra absentee ballots from Baudette but not enough to tax their counting process.

“This is a stressful election for some counties,” she said. “It’s new for them. We’ve been doing this since the ’90s.”

While election officials in some states say they’ll be counting ballots for days, Minnesota should expect relatively speedy results.

State elections officials started counting a couple of weeks ago. Simon said that will allow Minnesota to be among the first states to report accurate results.

“They really appreciated and made use of the two-week head start that we had to Minnesota for counting absentee ballots and so I suspect that tonight after polls close, the numbers that are reported will reflect all or substantially all of the absentee ballots that have come in so far, either by mail or people who voted in person absentee.”

‘Lower the temperature’

Nationally, worries of unrest on Election Day led downtown businesses in cities from Denver to Minneapolis to New York boarding up for Tuesday.

The Justice Department posted 14 federal monitors in Minneapolis to respond to any attempts to restrict voter rights. The city is one of 44 jurisdictions across the country where the DOJ has sent monitoring teams this year.

In the Twin Cities metro area, a group of faith leaders planned to ready “rapid response teams” to travel to wherever they hear reports of unrest or intimidation.

Should credible threats arise, “we will in small groups go to those various polling places as needed throughout the day and assess the situation and do what we can to de-escalate the threat,” said the Rev. Eric Hoffer of Salem Lutheran Church in north Minneapolis.

“We are hoping that simply by being a nonanxious presence and hopefully putting some space between the agitators and the voters … we can lower the temperature of the situation and possibly even stop the agitation if needed.”

In Corcoran, a Hennepin County elections official said a voter came to the polling place wearing campaign materials. An election judge asked the voter to remove the material and he complied.

“Apparently some other voter got the impression that that person was there to intimidate other voters, but that person really was a voter who was hanging out in the polling place waiting to place their ballot into the ballot counter,” said Ginny Gelms, election manager for Hennepin County.

“I can tell that the tensions have been running high in this election,” she said. “We’ve had people who are concerned about voter intimidation. They are concerned that they get their right to vote.”