Minneapolis digests election results

Residents at 40th & Nicollet Saturday after networks called the election for Joe Biden. Photo by Isaiah Rustad

Casting ballots in record numbers, Minneapolis sent former Vice President Joe Biden to the White House and a slate of blue candidates to the state Capitol.

Biden took a larger share of Southwest Minneapolis votes than Hillary Clinton did in 2016, earning about 4-7 additional percentage points in Southwest wards. About 1 in 10 Southwest voters stuck by President Donald Trump — roughly the same support he received in 2016. 

When media outlets called the race for Biden Saturday, Reggie LeFlore described an atmosphere of “joy” at Lake & Lyndale, where a woman waved a Biden-Harris sign on the corner and passersby in cars and fire trucks honked. He spent the weekend finishing a mural at the intersection, adding the words “Your vote mattered” below the message: “Black Lives Matter, All Year Round.”

“It was a relief,” he said. “We’ve still got work to do.”

More than 238,000 Minneapolis residents voted, including more than 170,000 absentee ballots and more than 67,000 Election Day ballots, surpassing the previous record set in 2016. That’s a 75.2% turnout among eligible voters, according to Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services.

As of Nov. 10, Minnesota had the highest voter turnout in the nation at 79.9%, according to the United States Election Project.

Mixed emotions

Near the Lyndale Park Rose Garden on Sunday, a group raised a toast to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Fulton resident Jim Joyce said he felt hopeful for the future. 

Relaxing near Lake Harriet, Armatage resident Sean Ahmad said he was feeling relieved and happy.

“I could be happier. Biden’s not the greatest, Kamala either,” he said. “It’s better than Trump. But it’s the status quo.”

He said no president deported more people than President Barack Obama, and Biden was part of that administration. 

Awaiting the bus at 40th & Nicollet, Alexei Setian said she wants to see Harris out of office as soon as possible, saying her record on marijuana prosecution shows a disconnect from the people who empower her. 

Anticipating wet weather, Michael Hawman worked to fortify the tent where he was living near 40th & Stevens. 

“I’m kind of glad Biden won, but then again, Trump helped me out,” he said, referring to unemployment benefits he received when he was laid off. He said Trump can behave like a child, but he understands. 

“I get that. I do that sometimes, too. People talk crap, and you want to fire back,” he said. 

Sitting at the Ramen Kazama patio on 34th Street, Hayat said she’s concerned that Trump will not concede the election and could use his lame duck session to make life difficult for his successor. 

“I’m concerned about what his angle is going to be between now and January,” she said.

What it means for Minneapolis

Under the Minnesota Legislature’s previous makeup, it was extremely difficult to find bipartisan support to help rebuild properties that were damaged following George Floyd’s killing, said Fatima Moore, the city’s new Intergovernmental Relations director. And she said it may not be any easier under the new makeup, where the GOP has gained seats in the Democrat-led House and maintained the majority in the Republican-led Senate. 

COVID-19 is another issue that Moore is watching closely. It’s possible that GOP officials will keep working to override Gov. Tim Walz’ peacetime emergency declaration, which has allowed the governor to mandate mask wearing, guide distance learning, stop evictions and appropriate funding. 

As the state faces a budget deficit, Minneapolis may need to defend against potential cuts to state aid, she said.

State Rep. Jamie Long (District 61B) said he’s hoping legislators will do more to help businesses hurt by the pandemic.

“We are the only divided legislature in the country once again,” he said. “I’m hoping that with the election behind us, we can come together and try to enact a package to help our city rebuild.”

Long said he’s glad Biden will rejoin the Paris climate accord on his first day in office and have the chance to end inhumane immigration policies.

Fulton resident Tina Smith will return to the U.S. Senate, earning 48.7% of the vote to beat Republican challenger Jason Lewis’s 43.5%.

East Harriet resident Paul Thissen was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court after being appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2018.  

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar will return to Washington with a smaller share of the 5th District vote than she won in 2018, this time defeating an additional Legal Marijuana Now candidate as well as a better-funded challenger than she faced two years ago. Republican Lacy Johnson raised $10.2 million, well above Omar’s $5.5 million. Her support dropped in all Southwest wards, where Johnson earned more than 20% of the vote in Wards 7, 11 and 13, and Legal Marijuana Now candidate Michael Moore earned at least 7.5% in Wards 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11. Across the district, Omar won 64.3% of the vote, Johnson won 25.8% and Moore won 9.5%

Making it count

Linden Hills resident Max Hailperin volunteered to help process absentee ballots with others spread out in the basement of the Minneapolis Convention Center. He described staff fastidiously opening ballots, checking identification numbers, sorting ballots into precinct piles, counting the ballots, double-checking the counts and placing them in vaults to await an audit before scanning begins. He could tell voters were anxious to make sure their votes counted. Some wrote their signatures multiple ways, with and without middle initials, attached extra stamps or sent ballots by certified mail. 

“I know that people have a lot of anxiety, and they should certainly take comfort in the fact that the people who are doing the work are serious and careful and cross-checking,” he said. “Every number that’s on the computer gets matched with how many physical pieces of paper there are. … You really can’t just miss something.”

ECCO resident Mike Pignato spent Election Day answering voter questions from Minnesota, Kentucky and Louisiana as part of the nonpartisan Election Protection Project with Dorsey & Whitney. After fielding questions from voters in other states, Pignato said he appreciates that Minnesota makes it easy to vote and offers same-day registration. In Kentucky, some precincts closed earlier than promised, and some voters didn’t receive absentee ballots requested weeks prior. Without same-day voter registration in Louisiana, residents who discovered they were no longer on the voting rolls at a particular precinct were turned away.

“You feel really good when you’re able to help someone exercise a right that’s been fought over, that’s been battled over and that’s often taken for granted,” he said.  “To be part of that as a fundamental part of democracy, it just feels [like] the right thing to do.” 

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a Nov. 4 briefing that he expected to see Election Day issues related to voter suppression, voter intimidation or fights over masks, but there were “next to none” statewide. He said he’d seen no evidence of any malicious cyberattack. He was also thankful for the 30,000 poll workers and election judges who worked at polling places despite rising COVID-19 case numbers. 

“All elections are difficult and challenging, but this was one that we had to administer during a once-in-a-century pandemic. And I think everyone, up and down, the system performed nearly flawlessly,” he said. 

The results

While re-electing several Democratic incumbents to the Legislature, Minneapolis is also sending a pair of freshman legislators who previously won DFL endorsements and primary upsets — shifting from longtime DFL Sen. Jeff Hayden to Democratic Socialist candidate Omar Fateh in District 62 and from Rep. Raymond Dehn  to Esther Agbaje in District 59B.

Fateh went on to beat Republican Bruce Lundeen in the general election with 89% of the vote.

Agbaje won with 74.4% of the vote, defeating Republican Alan Shilepsky, who received 17.9%, and Green Party candidate Lisa Neal-Delgado, who received 7.6%.

State Sen. Scott Dibble retained his District 61 seat with 84.8% of the vote, beating Republican Jennifer Zielinski’s 15%.

State Rep. Frank Hornstein kept his seat with 84.4% of the vote in District 61A after defeating Republican challenger Kurtis Fechtmeyer, who earned 15.5%.

DFL State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion kept his District 59 seat with 82% of the vote, defeating Republican challenger Paul Anderson’s 17.7%.

Long will keep his District 61B House seat with 84% of the vote after defeating Republican challenger Lisa Pohlman, who received 16%.

State Rep. Hodan Hassan earned 89.6% of the vote to stay in District 62A, defeating Republican Arjun Kataria.

And in District 62B, DFL incumbent State Rep. Aisha Gomez received nearly 91% of the vote to beat Republican Ross Tenneson.

In the Minnesota Supreme Court race, Thissen won 59% of the vote, while challenger Michelle MacDonald received 40.6% of the vote.

Minneapolitans decisively approved two referendum questions. One relates to the timing of redistricting and elections, and the other requires that elections for vacated council and mayoral seats take place on state-approved election days.