Proposal to move primary to June resurfaces

Supporters say it will give voters more clarity going into elections.

Luke Miller

 

Minnesota is closer to having an earlier statewide primary.

Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, authored a bill earlier this session that would move the primary from August to June, but the companion bill in the Senate stalled.

However, last week Daudt proposed an amendment to a House bill on absentee balloting procedures that would move the primary to June.

The amendment passed the full House by a vote of 66-65.The bill itself eventually passed.

The bill returned to the Senate, where it originally passed March 19 on a 60-1 vote without the June primary amendment.

The Senate passed a similar bill dealing with absentee voting in mid-March, but it didn’t have the primary change amendment.

A conference committee will likely take action on the bill next week to resolve differences between the bills. Legislators are on Easter/Passover Break this week.

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, who is a member on the conference committee and supports a June primary, said she wasn’t sure how the amendment will be received in the Senate.

“I don’t know what the trajectory will be on this bill,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, who said he “wouldn’t mind” a June primary, said the Republican caucus has yet to take a stance on the amendment.

“Individuals have different opinions on it I think, and they range from good idea to bad idea.”

Proponents of the amendment argue it would be better for voters to have more clarity heading into the general election, and there would be less time in the election process for intraparty clashes.

“I see Minnesota being a more significant primary, with more involvement of Minnesotans … if we move it to June,” said Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, during a House floor debate April 4.

Opponents feel the campaign season will interfere with the legislative session, and that it’ll increase the cost of running a campaign.

“If you move the primary to June, you’re going to increase costs, reduce participation and add to the cynicism of Minnesota public,” said Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, during floor debate.

June voter turnout could be hampered by summer vacations and many students would be off campus. Yet these are problems the state already faces with an August primary, and some proponents feel June would yield better results than August.

Gov. Mark Dayton has thrown his support behind a June primary.

“I’m on record for about 25 years supporting a June primary,” he said in a press conference after the House passed the amendment. “I think it’s better for the public to resolve at the beginning of the summer who the finalists are.”

In 2010, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a bill into law changing the state’s primary from September to August. State lawmakers have introduced legislation in recent years to move the primary to June.

If the bill makes it out of the conference committee with the amendment, the Senate and House will have to repass the bill before it goes to Dayton’s desk.

If Dayton signs the change into law with its current language, it would go into effect January 2013.