St. Paul eliminates school primary

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 2, 2011 - 8:20 PM

The election, which drew low turnouts, had become a financial burden, school board members agreed.

For the first time in almost half a century, St. Paul schools will not hold a primary election this year for its school board candidates.

Board members and election officials agreed at a meeting Tuesday that low turnout at primaries didn't justify the costs and caused some to question the fairness.

"Only 2 to 3 percent of eligible voters were voting in the [primary]," said Joe Mansky, the Ramsey County election manager. "When you have a very small number of people voting, the opportunity exists for a well-organized but small group of people to have a disproportionate impact on the election process."

Mansky said only 5,600 of 209,000 eligible voters cast ballots in 2009.

Printing newspaper notices, staffing polls and counting ballots cost the school district and the election board about $125,000, Mansky said.

After discussing Mansky's presentation, school board members decided that the expense wasn't justified and voted not to hold a primary this year. The board can vote at any time to revive the primary.

Ramsey County has held a nonpartisan school board election in St. Paul since 1965, and the primary typically eliminated a handful of candidates from the ballot.

In 2009, for example, the primary narrowed the field from 12 candidates to eight for three seats on the board.

This year, four of seven board seats are up for election.

With no primary, the deadline for candidates to file was moved from May to August. The exact date will be determined later, likely when the St. Paul City Council decides on its deadline, Mansky said.

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695

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