Civic beat // City Clerk apologizes for voting issues, proposes changes

A historically high voter turnout and large number of unregistered voters are primarily to blame for long lines at many Minneapolis polling places, according to City Clerk Casey Carl. 

Carl, on Dec. 3, gave the city’s Elections Committee a report on the 2012 election in Minneapolis. He apologized to voters who waited in long lines or dealt with other problems at about 25 percent of city polling locations. 

“I can only offer my most sincere and most genuine apology,” Carl said before offering several recommendations to improve voting. 

Voter turnout in Minneapolis reached 

81 percent in 2012, according to Carl’s report. That is the highest turnout in Minneapolis in at least 40 years. Since 1972, voter turnout in Minneapolis has been in the range of 68 percent to 74 percent. Turnout was 72 percent in 2008. 

Making matters more difficult, Carl said, was that 50,000 Minneapolis voters, or about 23 percent of the 216,000 people who cast ballots, were not registered to vote before arriving at the polls. Registering voters at the polls slows the process down dramatically, Carl told the committee. 

“That impact can not be overstated,” Carl said. 

To deal with the problems, Carl proposed a number of changes at the city and state level.

He said the city should improve outreach to get more people to pre-register, so as to avoid registrations at the polls. 

Carl also proposed easier early voting in Minnesota. The Minnesota Legislature would have to make that change. Residents in Minnesota can vote early, but they need to identify an approved reason for early voting. Other states allow people to cast absentee ballots without a reason. 

“The goal of early voting is to provide a voter convenience along with overall relief in polling place congestion on Election Day,” Carl wrote in his report. 

Another idea, Carl said, is to set up “vote centers” on Election Day where people can vote regardless of their precinct. That would make voting more convenient, Carl said. Nine states use vote centers, Carl said. 

The city should also partner with Hennepin County to purchase new voting equipment. The current equipment is 

13 years old. 

Council members on the Elections Committee were warm to Carl’s recommendations and directed staff to look into changes. 

Some council members asked for more polling places. For instance, Meg Tuthill (Ward 10) said some polling places in her ward just aren’t big enough to handle the number of voters. The Southwest Journal noticed extremely long lines at the VFW on Lyndale Avenue South and at Painter Park. 

The Elections Committee, at the request of Sandy Colvin Roy (Ward 12) added a staff direction to look for more polling places in some precincts, or even more precincts in each ward.

Metro Transit celebrates 3 billion customers

Forty years after the formation of what is now Metro Transit, the agency celebrated its 3 billionth customer on Nov. 29 at the Uptown Transit Station on Hennepin Avenue. 

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb contrasted the early days of transit in the Twin Cities, when smoky red gas-guzzlers drove the streets, to today, when hybrid and biofuel buses deliver passengers. 

“One thing that hasn’t changed is the commitment to provide the highest level of service to the Twin Cities,” Lamb said. 

Metro Transit selected Nadine Babu as its 3 billionth customer. Babu, a St. Louis Park resident and social media marketing agency owner, won an essay contest about the benefits of riding Metro Transit. 

“I absolutely love riding Metro Transit. I love not paying huge parking fees. I love being able to text. I love being able to put on my makeup when I go somewhere,” Babu said. 

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.