Election day fun facts and deep thoughts

What's the most predictable part of the citywide Minneapolis elections this year? It's not that the FBI will be snooping around at least one Minneapolis council member even after the election, though that's a good guess.

Actually, it's the outcomes of the council races themselves. Reader Sean Wherley offers up this fact: In the last three citywide election cycles, the winner of the primary went on to win the general election in 28 out of 30 council races.

The only two exceptions to this rule since 1993 were Natalie Johnson Lee's stunning upset of council powerbroker Jackie Cherryhomes in 2001, and Don Samuels's Third Ward win in a special election in 2003.

Those two, of course, are facing off in the new Ward Five in a rather bitter and compelling contest.

There are other things to consider before the polls close today.

As for the mayoral race, incumbent R.T. Rybak finished ahead of Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin in the primary rather impressively. On September 13th, Rybak received 44.5 percent of the vote to McLaughlin's 35.3. Numbers from around that time, according to Wherley, figured that there were some 22 percent undecided likely voters around town.

A Minnesota Poll released over the weekend by the Star Tribune shows that Rybak has increased his margin to 55 percent to 33. but the number of undecideds, according to the poll, has dwindled to 12 percent. This means that not only did Rybak pick up some undecided voters, but that there aren't necessarily enough votes for McLaughlin to pick up. It would be surprising--though not impossible--if McLaughlin were to prevail.

Also, primary turnout was low this year, and expect as much in the general election. One of the reasons, of course, is that the mayoral race was pretty much a snoozefest--the candidates ended up being one-note johnnies who could barely distinguish themselves from the other candidate.

But more importantly, there aren't a whole lot of compelling characters--with a couple notable exceptions--for the ward races either. There will be some tight contests, but by and large, the candidates were either familiar or rather drab.

The main issue regarding turnout is that Minneapolis holds its elections in off years, and there's plenty of reason to expect voter burnout after last year's Presidential race. But more importantly, the city really should get in a cycle that's more in line with the U.S. Census.

It's already 2005, and we're finally getting around to choosing representatives of the redistricted wards that were aligned off the 2000 Census. The decade will be half over before city boundaries are in line with Census tracts.

Finally, there was a sea change at City Hall last time out, with a new mayor and seven new council members. This year won't bring about that many new faces, but Wherley notes another, seldom-talked-about dynamic: The possibility for women to lead at City Hall. There are currently four women on the 13-person Minneapolis City Council. By the end of today, that number could be as high as eight.

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