Precincts report high voter turnout

The competitive race meant high to record-breaking numbers of voters at the more than 700 caucus locations statewide.

by Anna Ewart

Precincts across the state have reported high to record-breaking turnout numbers from Tuesday’s caucuses.

More than 206,000 people cast presidential preference ballots at DFL caucuses in Minnesota, while about 62,000 people voted at GOP caucuses, according to the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.

Official GOP caucus data was unclear Wednesday; officials could not confirm why there were vast discrepancies in results announced at Ford Hall caucus sites and those reported to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Before the caucuses, the office’s Web site reported more than 100,000 visits to its precinct caucus finder.

John Stiles, spokesman for the Minnesota DFL, said there were more than 700 caucus locations statewide.

At the Coffman Union’s Mississippi Room, about 1,700 people filled out ballots. From Precinct 11 alone, more than 1,000 people participated.

Stiles said the previous record turnout for participation in the state’s DFL caucuses dated from the Vietnam War era.

“We’re looking at roughly tripling the historic turnout,” said Stiles, refereeing to the more than 200,000 people who participated on Tuesday.

Steven Rosenstone, vice president for scholarly and cultural affairs at the University, said people should be careful before they say there was a large voter turnout.

“The actual voter turnout would be the number of people who showed up at the caucuses divided by the estimate of the voting age population,” he said. “It still may be low relative to the number of people who participate in a general election.”

Rosenstone also said large turnouts are encouraged by competitive races and compelling candidates.

He said the amount of attention Minnesota got the weekend before Super Tuesday could have played a part in more people going to caucuses.

On that weekend, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton both visited the Twin Cities. Mitt Romney made an appearance in Edina and Ron Paul came to the University.

Celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and Kal Penn, who visited the University to stump for Obama the day before Super Tuesday, might have helped encourage more people to vote on campus as well.

Rosenstone said it’s easier to get people to vote if they live in a concentrated, connected and well-educated population.

“It’s easier to mobilize young people on college campuses than to mobilize young people that are not on college campuses,” he said.