By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Early voting in Minnesota is smashing records across the state. With just over two weeks until election day more than 350,000 Minnesotans have requested absentee ballots or voted in person.

And it’s not just here — an estimated 5 million voters across the US have already cast ballots. An estimated 40 percent of U.S. voters are expected to cast ballots before election day.

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The numbers are especially high here in Minnesota because this is the first time we have had no excuses early voting in a presidential election year.

At the Hennepin County Government Center a steady stream of voters including Jessica Sell of Maple Grove have been voting.

“It’s great, it’s really convenient,” she said.

Sell says many of her friends are also voting early.

“My friends and coworkers that haven’t voted in the past –because they think it’s inconvenient to fight the rushes on election day — have actually voted in this election,” she said.

Both in Hennepin County and statewide, the number of voters casting ballots before election day is expected to double from the last presidential election.

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“We’re expecting to have historic absentee numbers,” Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms said.

The Minnesota ballots that have already been cast are being kept in envelopes under heavy security.

“In all those ballots, the envelopes go into secure storage here. It’s locked and we have to have key card access that room,” Gelms said. “And we always go in in pairs so we don’t have one person alone with the ballots at any one time.”

With voting underway in more than 30 states – most analysts say this favor Hillary Clinton who is ahead in key statewide and electoral college polls.

“The sharp jump in early voting here in Hennepin County — which is overwhelmingly Democratic — lines up with the fact that the Democratic party in the state has been putting a lot of money into organizing before election day,” political science professor Larry Jacobs said.

Early voting also favors the candidate that is leading for another reason — if the leading candidate makes a mistake, it’s minimized because so many people have already voted.

There is however a chance for a do-over. In Minnesota if you have already voted you have until November 2nd to request your ballot back, and you can get another one.

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Esme Murphy