State primaries should be sooner

Shifting the primary to an earlier date would change the way candidates run campaigns.

The Minnesota election process might change in the near future. A new bill would move the state primary elections forward three months from their current date in September to June. The bill is not revolutionary by any means; legislators have brought up this exact premise numerous times in the last decade. The difference is that this time they’re serious – or so we’re told. Lawmakers and party leaders are uniting in an attempt to push the bill through the Legislature.

The proposal has the support of all three of Minnesota’s major political parties. It was a remarkable scene last week as the heads of the Republican, Democratic and Independence parties joined together to support a change in statewide election protocol.

Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, wasted no time in decrying the tri-partisan love fest. He will certainly not be alone in asserting his concerns about increasing an already bloated political season. Last year offered a reminder of the mud-slinging and lies that fill the media during an election year. Nevertheless, a shift in the schedule could mitigate some of the negativity.

Primaries are typically a domain of extreme partisans. In 2006, only 13 percent of voters participated in the primary. While an easy argument could be made to abolish the entire institution of primaries, we’ll settle for the schedule change.

The current custom encourages candidates to cater to their extreme base of followers until the primary is over. With the current system, many independent and moderate voters have been turned off by round after round of polarizing party rhetoric.

Forcing candidates to alter their tone could bring back voters who have become disenchanted with the manner of current politics. In addition, the earlier primary would allow more time for the top candidates to face off; dodging debates would be far more difficult.

For those who like a rousing bout of mudslinging, rest assured: Simply moving the primary will not turn politicians into tame symbols of Minnesota nice.