Early count shows strong, but not record-breaking turnout in Minnesota primary

Primary elections typically have a significantly lower turnout than the November general election. Minnesota has had nation-leading voter turnout in its last three general elections, reaching nearly 80% in 2020.

Darlene Clark votes in Minnesota's primary election Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Brainerd.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

ST. PAUL — Final counts from Minnesota’s primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 9, are yet to be certified, but Secretary of State Steve Simon said voter turnout appeared to be "relatively strong" compared to other years.

More than 18% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2022 primary, according to preliminary counts from the Secretary of State's Office. Preliminary results show more than 700,000 people cast votes for the Republican and Democratic Farmer Labor gubernatorial candidates. Those numbers could change as local elections officials across the state certify their results, and the final official turnout will likely not be available until after November when the updated number of eligible voters becomes available.

Primary elections, where voters of each party select their final candidates, typically have a significantly lower turnout than the November general election. Minnesota has had nation-leading voter turnout in its last three general elections, reaching nearly 80% in 2020. As of Aug. 3, there were 3,561,194 registered voters in Minnesota.

Typically, primaries draw more voters when there is strong competition between candidates of the same party vying for their party’s nomination. In a tweet, Simon pointed to the 2018 primary election as an example. That year saw competitive Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican gubernatorial races. Now-Gov. Tim Walz challenged DFL-endorsed candidate Erin Murphy, and GOP-endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson fought off a challenge from former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

In 2014, just the Republicans had a competitive gubernatorial primary, and turnout was around 10%, Simon noted.


This year, incumbent DFLers Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon and Auditor Julie Blaha did not face strong challenges. On the Republican side, gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen, secretary of state candidate Kim Crockett, and auditor candidate Ryan Wilson did not see strong competition.

But some of the contests did see more action, including the Republican attorney general primary, where endorsed candidate Jim Schultz faced a challenge from 2018 attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow. Schultz ultimately prevailed with approximately 53% of the vote to Wardlow’s 35%. A third candidate, Sharon Anderson, received the remainder of votes in that race.

Some Congressional districts also saw competitive races as well. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a progressive Minneapolis Democrat, narrowly held on to her seat in the face of a challenge from former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels, a moderate.

Absentee voting numbers were not final as of Wednesday, but as of Tuesday the secretary of state had counted 152,102 accepted ballots. In the 2020 state primary, Minnesota accepted more than 543,000. While the 2022 absentee numbers have not reached the levels seen in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, they remain significantly higher than they did in the 2018 and 2016 primaries.

Final election results

Following are the final results from the Tuesday, Aug. 9, Minnesota primary election. They are with 100% of precincts reporting, according to the Secretary of State's website.

Governor & Lt Governor    
 Scott Jensen and Matt Birk288,50989.31%
 Joyce Lynne Lacey and Kent Edwards21,3086.60%
 Bob "Again" Carney Jr and Captain Jack Sparrow13,2144.09%
 Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan (incumbents)416,92796.53%
 Ole Savior and Julia M Parker14,9823.47%
Grassroots - Legalize CannabisCandidateTotalsPct
 Darrell Paulsen and Ed Engelmann69340.86%
 Steve Patterson and Matt Huff1,00359.14%
Legal Marijuana NowCandidateTotalsPct
 Chris Wright and L.C. Lawrence Converse1,35648.14%
 James McCaskel and David Sandbeck1,46151.86%
Attorney General
 Sharon Anderson39,72212.72%
 Doug Wardlow108,53734.76%
 Jim Schultz163,95452.51%
 Bill Dahn45,11110.65%
 Keith Ellison (incumbent)378,36589.35%
Secretary of State    
 Erik van Mechelen110,94836.85%
 Kim Crockett190,15963.15%
 Steve Carlson108,14427.49%
 Steve Simon (incumbent)285,31272.51%
Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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