MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Early voting is way ahead of past years in Minneapolis, an indication that there could be record turnout for an election that is being closely watched across the country.

There were lines Wednesday at the early voting center in Minneapolis, but election officials are concerned that voters may not know about some key rule changes.

Michael Winter was one of the voters who waited in a brisk wind to cast their ballots early.

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“Just a convenient, easy process. Get in, get out, and avoid the hassle on Election Day,” Winter said.

Turnout is expected to exceed the 105,000 people who voted in the last mayoral election in 2017. So far this year, 17,000 people have voted early — more than double the same time in 2017.

But voting has not gone smoothly for everyone this year. Early voter Sheila McGuire had her absentee ballot rejected.

(credit: CBS)

“They took it out and said I needed a witness,” McGuire said. “If I had just mailed it, it wouldn’t have been accepted.”

McGuire ran into one of the rule changes. For 2020, the witness requirement due to the pandemic was dropped for absentee ballots. But Jeff Narabrook of Minneapolis Elections says it’s back.

“If you complete all the steps, follow the instructions you’ll be fine,” Narabrook said. “And that including getting a witness signature.”

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Another concern is that your polling place may not be where it was in 2020. Back then, a lot of polling places were consolidated because of the pandemic. The recommendation now is to check before you vote.

“A lot of people’s polling places have moved,” Narabrook, said. “Everybody gets a little postcard in the mail saying that, but it can be easy to miss.”

Another issue is voters may think their ballot will count if it’s been postmarked by Election Day. That was also only for 2020. It now must be received by Election Day.

So far, 51% of absentee ballots requested have not yet been returned. As for McGuire, an election official provided a witness signature and she was able vote.

At this point, election officials say ballots should no longer be mailed because there’s just no guarantee it will arrive by Tuesday due to postal delivery changes.

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Esme Murphy