House votes to move primary to June

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The state’s primary elections could move from August to June — a change that supporters say would encourage greater public participation and align Minnesota more closely with other states.

Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) successfully offered the provision as an amendment to HF2545/ SF2296*. It passed on a vote of 66-65. Rep. Tim Sanders (R-Blaine) and Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) sponsor the bill.

In 2010, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a law moving the state primary from September to August. The September primary date was seen as disadvantageous to military and overseas voters, and the change had overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature. 

As amended, the bill would designate the first Tuesday following the third Monday in June as the date for the state’s primary elections. Currently, primary elections take place on the second Tuesday in August. 

Supporters include Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park), who said the change would bring more voters to the polls. He also said putting an end to the “intra-party squabbles” of the primary earlier in the process would focus more attention on the General Election.

“I think the earlier you go, the better it’s going to be,” Simon said.

Opponents include Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), who said making the General Election season longer would only increase the costs of campaigns. Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) called the amendment “self-serving” and said an earlier primary would favor incumbents.

The House passed the amended bill 78-51. It now returns to the Senate, where a different version passed 60-1 on March 19.

Other election changes in the bill include:

  • eliminating a requirement that absentee ballots be rejected if the voter fails to write in the date on the envelope;
  • banning political party units from punishing non-endorsed candidates from running for office by imposing financial penalties (successfully offered as an amendment by Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley)); and
  • a technical change necessary to accommodate the date for this year’s Republican National Convention (successfully offered as an amendment by Sanders).