West Bank ward sees record absentee turnout

Almost 1,000 more absentee ballots than in 2013 have been tallied so far.

Ward 6 City Council Member Abdi Warsame knocks on doors of community members on Saturday, Oct. 14 in Minneapolis. Warsame is running for his second term as a city council member.

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Ward 6 City Council Member Abdi Warsame knocks on doors of community members on Saturday, Oct. 14 in Minneapolis. Warsame is running for his second term as a city council member.

Madeline Deninger

Residents in Cedar-Riverside, Seward and surrounding neighborhoods aren’t waiting until Election Day to cast their votes. 

Minneapolis’ sixth ward has already broken its own record for absentee voting ahead of the Nov. 7 election. As of Oct. 19, 2,607 absentee ballots had been tallied in Ward 6, nearly 1,000 more than in 2013. Officials say the community has become more active due to greater political representation. 

Ward 6 City Council Member Abdi Warsame believes the East African community in Cedar-Riverside has turned out in greater numbers than in past years because the campaigns are focused on resident issues. 

“People have a great deal of fear regarding the Trump administration. People want jobs for their children and for themselves. This is their city, and the way to be a part of the city is to vote,” Warsame said. “That’s why all the candidates are coming to our ward.” 

Warsame said the community’s turnout this year is “unprecedented.”

“City government is very important in our lives. Our volunteers have done a good job getting that message to the community,” he said. 

The number of absentee ballots filed in Ward 6 during the past two municipal elections shows a steep increase in political engagement across the neighborhoods. In 2005, 120 absentee ballots were filed in Ward 6. That number dropped to 65 ballots in 2009. 

Total voter turnout in Ward 6 has also seen an uptick in past years. In the 2009 municipal election, 14 percent of the ward’s residents voted, compared to 33 percent in 2013.

Ward 6 Minneapolis City Council Candidate Mohamud Noor thinks Ward 6 voter turnout could reach 50 percent this November. 

“The expectations of the community are really high. They want to fight for social justice, and they want to see a candidate fight for a certain agenda,” Noor said. 

A.K. Hassan is a candidate for District 3 of the Minneapolis Park Board. As second-term chair of the DFL Somali American Caucus, Hassan believes he’s helped engage the East African community through campaigning.

“People say to me ‘I can’t vote’ — especially elders. So I have to give them all of their options. I’ll give them … absentee ballots, and then they’ll call me and say ‘I voted,’” he said. 

Nearly four times more people voted absentee in Ward 6 than any other ward in 2013. 

“The East African community travels a lot, back home or out of the country. So we want to give them the option to vote early,” Hassan said. “We’ll give rides to people who don’t want to do absentee.”

Noor said residents in Ward 6 seem more willing to engage with candidates, and attributed the neighborhood’s participation to the record absentee numbers. 

“We are engaging more people. When you talk to more people, more people turn out to vote,” he said. 

Warsame said community members take pride in their election participation. 

“They understand how important it is historically for marginalized communities to even have the ability to vote,” Warsame said.