By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Early voting for Minnesota’s August 14 primary starts Friday across the state, and election officials tell WCCO-TV they are bracing for record turnouts.

That is because of competitive races for both parties in the governor’s race, as well as key congressional races.

It used to be if you voted absentee, you would have to have an excuse. You were going to be out of the country, or you were going to have an operation during the primary or general elections. But as of 2014, that is no longer the case.

Officials at the Minneapolis office where residents can start voting Friday are getting ready. They have hired two times the staff for people checking in, as well as more staff to help people parking outside

“Voters have the opportunity for 46 days to vote in person at their city hall or at their county seat,” said Grace Wachlarowicz, Minneapolis’ assistant city clerk. “They have an opportunity to request a ballot by mail.”

(credit: CBS)

Minnesota’s sleepy August primary is suddenly a barn burner, with two decisive statewide races for governor. On the Republican side, it is between major candidates Commissioner Jeff Johnson and former Governor Tim Pawlenty.

On the DFL side, you have three candidates with a history of election victories: State Representative Erin Murphy, Attorney General Lori Swanson and Congressman Tim Walz.

“Voters have often slept through primaries in Minnesota,” said Larry Jacobs, professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “This year may be the exception, and the reason is we have a bonanza of competitive races in both parties.”

Among the big races in this August Primary is a DFL showdown for Minnesota Attorney General, which features — among other candidates — Congressman Keith Ellison and veteran State Representative Debra Hilstrom.

“I can’t remember an August primary where we’ve had so much at stake,” Jacobs said.

Perhaps the most decisive contest is the DFL contest for the 5th Congressional District seat, vacated by Congressman Ellison. The winner in this overwhelmingly-Democratic district will almost certainly win the congressional seat in November.

Click here for a list of all registered candidates for that August 14 Primary, and click here for a list of early voting sites.

Esme Murphy