Little Canada makes ‘changes’ to pre-Election Day voting

Minnesotans have a wealth of ways to cast their vote and that shows up in how many of us partake in elections.

Nearly 75 percent of registered Minnesota voters participated in the 2016 election — the highest voter turnout in the nation that year — with many of them voting before Election Day.

With the pre-Election Day options taking off, those who run elections are working to catch up. Currently, voters can cast a no-excuse absentee ballot by mail or in person, or early vote where they put their ballot through a voting machine.

Coming off that historic 2016 turnout, the Little Canada City Council discussed potential “changes” to the voting options offered at the City Center ahead of Election Day at its April 25 meeting. 

“Because of the amount of people who are now voting before Election Day,” City Clerk Heidi Heller, who runs the city’s elections, told the council, “so many cities were just overwhelmed.”

The council opted to no longer offer the machine-voting option in the days leading up to Election Day, based on a city staff recommendation that said the process took up too many city resources and crowded the City Center. However, in-person absentee voting will remain an option at the City Center.

“It is such a long and cumbersome process to deal with each voter for that,” Heller said of the early machine voting. “It’s just the amount of things [needed each time] ... it’s probably quicker for the voter do to the absentee [ballot] in the envelope.”

“Changes” was in quotation marks above, because council members ultimately decided that they were not, in practice, limiting voters’ ability to cast their vote prior to Election Day. The City Center will still keep extended open hours to allow for plenty of time for in-person absentee voters to cast their votes.


Lots of options

The decision also hinged on Ramsey County planning to offer 11 locations in St. Paul and throughout the county where residents can vote early, Oct. 30 through Nov. 5, the day before Election Day. Voters can go to any of the locations to cast an early vote, no matter where they live in Ramsey County.

David Triplett, an elections specialist for the county, said in an interview that with those planned 11 locations, Ramsey County Elections is more than doubling the number of places it offered people to vote prior to Election Day 2017.

“We’re prepared to process more early voters than we ever have before,” he said.

Said Mayor John Keis at the meeting, “If the county’s willing to do this and pay for this, I don’t know why we wouldn’t let them.”

Heller said in an email after the meeting that she didn’t track staff time and other costs associated with the early machine voting, so she was unable to remark on any cost savings the city will see for the 2018 election.

Heller added that after Little Canada alerted Ramsey County Elections about its decision to not offer the early, machine-voting option, that the county told her it would plan on setting up a location in Little Canada that offers that option.

She said where that will happen has yet to be determined, though there is a county-owned facility on South Owasso Boulevard that’s a potential location.

The council did not have a formal vote on the move but came to a consensus, with council member Christian Torkelson saying he was a “reticent on board,” wondering why voters might feel most comfortable feeding their ballots into a voting machine.

Of course, Little Canada will still be offering its normal slate of voting options come Election Day on Nov. 6 for those who want to partake in the voting ritual more traditionally.

Keis remarked that early voting had affected his experience while taking that more traditional route.

“Last election, when I voted on the actual Election Day, the lines were a lot shorter,” he said. “I thought something was wrong. I went, ‘Where is everybody?’”

Ramsey County early voting locations

Ramsey County Elections is offering 11 locations where county residents can vote and feed their ballot through a voting machine prior to election day. Voters can cast their ballot at any of the following locations, regardless of where they live. Each location is open for voting Aug. 7-13 for the state primary and Oct. 30-Nov. 5 for the general election. According to a Ramsey County Elections official, the locations could change, and more could be added.


In St. Paul:

• Ramsey County Elections office

• Highland Park Community Center

• Martin Luther King Recreation Center

• Como Park Historic Streetcar Station

• Arlington Hills Community Center


In suburban Ramsey County:

• The Ramsey County Libraries in Maplewood, Roseville, Shoreview and White Bear Lake

• Ramsey County Public Works in Arden Hills

• St. Anthony City Hall


Ramsey County Elections is also planning to have an early voting site in a yet-to-be-determined site in Little Canada, according to Little Canada City Clerk Heidi Heller. 


– Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813

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