Thanks to new early voting laws, thousands of Minnesotans have already voted ahead of Tuesday’s election. Another 2 million or more are expected to make their ways to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots for President, Congressional seats and all 201 state legislative seats in our state House and Senate.
Final turnout numbers will be interesting to track as Minnesotans have a habit in showing up in droves for presidential elections (70 percent or more participation) while many stay home in non-presidential elections (50 percent in 2014).
Larger turnouts in presidential elections have usually helped DFL candidates in Minnesota. The same may not necessarily be true this year given how divided the state is between rural and metro voters on the race for president between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Rural DFLers and suburban GOP candidates needed to create separation from the top of the ticket so as to not be dragged down by their party’s presidential candidates and how negatively people feel about them.
The amount of money being spent once again is obscene. Many are complaining about the amount of mailers and literature pieces they received from non-candidate organizations otherwise known as ‘independent expenditures’ or IEs.
Last week it was reported that $15 million had been spent at that point by IEs on state legislative races. That doesn’t count the millions of dollars spent by the parties and candidates themselves. Some state legislative races will clear $1 million in total spending when the campaign dust settles.
Polling in Minnesota has shown Secretary Clinton with solid lead over Donald Trump through the election season even with the polls tightening nationally in the final week. However, that doesn’t mean we can extrapolate DFL state legislative victories across the map. The state’s legislative races are very competitive and it’s expected that whoever wins majorities in either body will have narrow majorities to manage when they gavel into session on January 3, 2017.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk is defending 39 seats in the Senate’s 67 seat chamber where he needs at least 34 seats to stay in control. Earlier in the summer there was speculation that the Senate could flip, but it now appears to most who have been tracking the competitive races closely that the DFL will retain control.
More interesting in the races for the state Senate is how a handful of key Senators will fair, like Senate Tax Chair Rod Skoe and Senate Minority Leader Dave Hann. If they should lose, we’ll see a more significant reshuffling of the leadership structures within the two Senate caucuses in the wake of the election.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt is defending 73 seats in the House’s 134 seat chamber where he needs at least 68 seats to stay in control. Through most of the election cycle speculation has been that he retains the majority, but that it could shrink by a few seats.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen does have a pathway to 68 or more seats, but it would mean everything falling his way on election night and as this time the election doesn’t seem to be shaping up as a ‘big wave’ election to make that happen.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The bottom line though is that it’s been very difficult to track what is actually going to happen in terms of turnout and how much will people split their ballots this year. Out of 201 state legislative races there are 30-40 between the two bodies that will determine who is in control next January. There will be a few surprises tomorrow night and many close contents. We could have a scenario where the House majority is uncertain until a handful of automatic recounts are finalized.
Get a deeper dive into the competitive races in Minnesota, check out this coverage by MinnPost.