Minnesota: What to expect on election night

Minnesota was traditionally a blue state but has become more purple over the years. Rural Minnesota has grown more Republican while Minneapolis, St. Paul and their suburbs have become more Democratic, along with certain regional centers including Rochester and Duluth. Joe Biden won Minnesota by just over 7 percentage points in 2020 after Donald Trump came within 1.5 points in 2016.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s bid for a second term is Minnesota’s top race this year. He’s up against Republican challenger Scott Jensen, a family practice physician and former state senator. Walz pulled nearly 54 percent of the vote in 2018, when he won by over 11 points, but the race is seen as tighter this year. Jensen has attacked Walz for his handling of the pandemic and the rise in crime following the unrest that erupted after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.

The U.S. House race in Minnesota’s 2nd District has drawn the most attention and money of the state’s eight congressional races. It has shaped up as one of the most expensive in the country when outside spending is factored in. Democratic U.S Rep. Angie Craig is fighting to keep her seat in a rematch against Marine Corps veteran Tyler Kistner. Craig beat him by just over 2 points in 2020, and the suburban district remained almost evenly divided along party lines after redistricting.

Minnesota’s other closely watched congressional race is in southern Minnesota’s GOP-leaning 1st District, which features another rematch. Republican Brad Finstad is trying to keep the seat he won over Democrat Jeff Ettinger in August to fill out the remainder of the term of GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died of kidney cancer in February. The rest of the state’s congressional races are viewed as safe for the incumbents.

Minnesota also features a hard-fought attorney general’s race. Democratic incumbent Keith Ellison, who led the prosecution team that got former police Officer Derek Chauvin convicted of murdering Floyd, is seeking a second term over Republican Jim Schultz.

All 201 seats in the Minnesota Legislature are on the ballot. Senate Republicans and House Democrats hold narrow majorities, and there are enough competitive races in both chambers for control to shift.

Turnout will be the key in Minnesota. Democrats are hoping the fight over abortion rights will drive their voters to the polls in high numbers. Republicans are counting on concerns over crime and the economy to motivate their supporters.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:


Polls close at 8 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET).


The mode of voting for Minnesotans changed in the 2020 election, in part due to COVID-19 concerns, with about 57% voting with no-excuse vote-by-mail or absentee ballots. The rest of the state’s voters did go to the polls that year.

As of 2021, Minnesota has dropboxes for mail and absentee ballots. Generally speaking, voters tend to favor paying a visit to their polling place instead of getting a mail/absentee ballot. Voters can vote early in-person or through the mail. You can also register to vote at your polling place on Election Day.

The key counties are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, which holds the majority of the state’s population and is mostly dominated by Democrats. However, some of the suburban metro counties are a blend of GOP and Democratic voters. Republicans have gained ground in southern Minnesota and have a strong hold on the northern and western parts of the state, aside from the Duluth area.

Minnesota counts its ballots on election night, and those figures include mail/absentee ballots, which must be returned by Election Day. Aside from the closest of races, it’s likely that most of Minnesota’s races will be called on election night.