Minnesota legislators are once again kicking around the idea to move the state’s primary to earlier in the summer.
Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, authored a bill that would move the primary up to June from its current date in August. However, the Senate version of the bill didn’t make it through the committee in time.
The bill would have moved the state primary to the Tuesday after the third Monday in June rather than the second Tuesday in August.
The bill likely won’t pass this year, but it reflects a prospect that has been around the past several years and could arise again in the future.
After President Barack Obama signed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act in 2009, the Minnesota Legislature was forced to move the primary sooner to comply with federal law.
The legislation passed in response to the MOVE act in 2010 and signed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty moved the primary from September to August.
Daudt said moving the primary to June would give voters more clarity heading into the general election.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, a co-author of the House bill, said moving the primary to June would give Republican and DFL candidates more time to introduce themselves to the entire Minnesota population during the general election.
“Let’s have more of the focus and more of the time be on the general election,” he said, “and less of the time be on intraparty squabbles and battles.”
There are potential downsides to having a June primary.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said moving the primary up to June could make it harder for independents and third-party candidates to collect enough signatures to make it on the primary ballot since they would have to start much earlier.
“Essentially what you’re doing is making independent individuals who want to run for office and small political party candidates collect signatures in the middle of blizzardy winter,” he said.
Another issue that could arise with a June primary is similar to what the state faces now with its August date — many Minnesotans traveling for vacation and other summer plans in June and August.
Dan McConnell, chair of the Minneapolis DFL, said Minnesotans may not be paying attention to politics in June.
“People kind of pay more attention to elections in the fall in Minnesota. [June would] kind of be a culture change.”
Also, June voting may not be in the best interest of college students, as universities often conclude their spring semester in May.
However, August voting has not proven beneficial either, as the August primary usually comes several weeks before the fall semester starts.
“The August primary is clearly not good for student-voter turnout, but I’m not sure June is much better.” said Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis. “It might be a little better, because people are a little closer to having been on campus, and some are still on campus because of summer session.”
Kahn pointed to the special state Senate election over winter break as an example of what student voter turnout could look like in summer months.
In that election, only two students voted at Coffman Union, 21 voted in the Superblock area and 22 voted in Dinkytown. Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, won the seat to represent the University area.
The DFL primary for the Senate seat that took place prior to winter break had about 1,700 more votes than in the general election.
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