Olmsted County voters were engaged in the election, and they voted like their lives depended on it.
Fueled by the high stakes, 91,332 Olmsted County voters cast ballots in the presidential election between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
With 101,371 people registered to vote at 7 a.m. Nov. 3, turnout clocked in at around 90%, according to the Secretary of State's website. That number might be a little inflated due to same-day registrants, but it nonetheless strongly underscores people's determination to cast a ballot, and it was 10,000 more voters in Olmsted County than in the last presidential election four years ago.
"We have highly engaged voters," said Mark Krupski, Olmsted County director of property records and licensing. "I think it's phenomenal."
Far more than half of Olmsted County voters — an estimated 52,600 — cast absentee ballots, tripling the number of such votes cast four years ago, he said.
Krupski said the election system was never close to being overwhelmed by the record number of ballots, but there were lingering concerns about what would happen should key personnel contract COVID-19 and be knocked out of commission. That never happened.
"It really was one of the smoother ones. It just went very, very well," he said.
Statewide, a record number of voters took part in the 2020 general election in Minnesota, with more than 3.2 million votes counted as of Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 4. With an estimated eligible voting population 4.1 million-strong, the Secretary of State's Office reported turnout of nearly 78.3% shortly before 3 p.m. Results are still being tabulated, but they already indicate that Minnesota narrowly beat what state election officials consider the modern-day turnout record of 78.1% set in 2008.
Approximately 2.9 million voters in Minnesota took part in the 2008 general elections, in which about 3.7 million were eligible to vote.
High levels of participation and a crush of mail-in ballots did not appear to overwhelm Minnesota's election infrastructure. State officials said there were no major disruptions or altercations at polling places on Election Day, and long lines and wait times were observed only sporadically.
Running polling places that allowed for social distancing didn't slow the process down, either, according to State Secretary Steve Simon.
"We pulled off, I think, a textbook election in the state of Minnesota," Simon told reporters on a Wednesday afternoon press call.
Results reported Wednesday are not final, however, and will change as county election offices continue to tally votes they did not get to on Tuesday night, Nov. 3, as well as those still arriving by mail. Mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day and arriving thereafter will be counted until Nov. 10, but have to be held separately because of a federal court ruling issued last week.
The "segregated" ballots may be subject to further litigation.
Because Minnesota started counting both absentee and in-person votes on Tuesday, however, it managed a more clear count and avoided the delays that have paralyzed other states and the presidential contest. The state declared for Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday night, continuing its streak of supporting Democratic candidates before a clear winner emerged in several other states.
Efforts to flip Minnesota in favor of the Republican Party may not have translated to a presidential victory in Minnesota, with incumbent President Donald Trump carrying approximately 45% of the vote, but did see former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach oust Rep. Collin Peterson, Democrat and chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, from Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, which he represented for decades.
Republicans will also retain control of the Minnesota Senate, according to early and unofficial results, which, coupled with another Democratic-majority victory in the Minnesota House, leaves the state as the only one in the U.S. with a divided Legislature.
Several state House races were close enough to meet Minnesota's minimum requirements for a recount, though, according to Simon, as well as numerous other races for local offices. Recounts in Minnesota are not triggered automatically, however.
Simon also cautioned Wednesday that a 48-hour grace period Minnesota allowed to count votes cast Tuesday will mean that figures reported in the next two days will account for some Election Day votes, as well as late-arriving absentee ballots.