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Three million head to Minnesota polls

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ST. PAUL – Three million Minnesotans exercise their democratic right to vote today as polls show some contests getting tighter.

Thousands of volunteers for the two major parties, candidates and two proposed constitutional amendments today continue the frenzied work they have conducted in recent days to ensure supporters get to the polls.

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More than 235,000 absentee ballots had been filled out and returned by mid-day Monday.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie predicted voter turnout to be 78 percent, about 3 million.

Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party on Monday sent party activists one last pre-election message: “With Election Day tomorrow, I have just one more huge favor to ask of you: vote. All of our hard work won’t matter unless we all get out there and fill out a ballot. ... It’s been a long, hard road, so let’s make it count.”

The turnout was expected to be influenced by a late push for votes in the presidential race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. Recent Minnesota polls have not been consistent, but most show a newly tightened race that Obama had appeared on his way to winning easily.

Minnesota has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972.

Republicans sent big names to the state Monday: Romney son Josh and Chairman Reince Priebus of the Republican National Committee.

“Minnesota is a toss-up state and we need your help to put us in the Romney-Ryan column tomorrow,” the state Republican Party emailed supporters Monday.

On Sunday, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan spoke to thousands at a Twin Cities rally, his largest of the campaign. The Wisconsin congressman also stopped in St. Paul last week after an appearance in nearby Hudson, Wis.

While the Obama campaign denied being worried, it sent former President Bill Clinton to St. Cloud Sunday, after appearances last week in Duluth and Minneapolis.

Obama has had offices around Minnesota for months, while Romney has no campaign workers in the state.

Two proposed constitutional amendments have attracted much attention, and money, in recent months.

The campaign about a proposal to define marriage as between a man and a woman is especially heated. The proposal has won in the last 30 states, but Minnesota opponents (who support gay marriage) were buoyed by recent polls showing amendment support just dropping below 50 percent.

The other proposed amendment would require voters to show a photographic identification before casting ballots.

Control of the state Legislature also will be decided today. Republicans won the majority two years ago, but Democrats organized soon after that to be ready for today’s vote. The GOP controls the House 72-61, with one open seat, while it holds the Senate 37-29, also with an open seat.

Democrats have far out-raised Republicans in both House and Senate contests.

All but lost amid other election activity has been the U.S. Senate race, where polls show incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar with a big lead over Republican challenger Kurt Bills.

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