This year's legislative contests call for extra attention.
Editorial hypothesis: This year, an unusually large share of Minnesota voters don't know which legislative district they reside in, who's running in those districts for the state House and/or Senate, or what those candidates think about the state's problems.
Reporting needed to test hypothesis: Editorial Board will exit the office early every sunny afternoon for the next week and visit golf courses, parks, outdoor cafes and sports venues to question Minnesotans on said topic.
Supplies required: Notebooks, recorders, sunscreen, a couple of rented convertibles and a dozen tickets to each of the next eight Twins games.
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In deference to the economy's fragile state, the Editorial Board opted not to send this memo upstairs. Rather, after the candidate filing period ended Tuesday, we listed reasons to consider this an unusual legislative election year -- one that warrants voters' early attention.
• Redistricting has shifted legislative maps in much of the state. It created 15 House and eight Senate seats without incumbents -- though in a number of them, incumbents have relocated to be eligible to run. We'd advise every voter: If you haven't already, check the maps at bit.ly/wJdVde to determine which district is yours.
• Retirements and political ambition are combining to ensure that there will be a lot of new names on ballots this fall. Nearly a quarter of those who served in the 2012 Legislature -- 46 of 201 -- won't occupy their old seats in 2013. Nine of the 46 are House members who are seeking Senate seats. GOP Rep. Kurt Bills and Sen. Mike Parry hope to go to Washington. DFL Sens. Linda Higgins and Mary Jo McGuire have opted to run, respectively, for Hennepin and Ramsey county boards.
That leaves 33 who are just plain goners. They've either reached retirement age or been squeezed out by redistricting, compelled to quit by ill health or family obligations or -- regrettably -- discouraged by the gridlock-prone partisan environment at the Capitol.
Voters who share that frustration should be on the lookout for candidates who possess the capacity to bridge the partisan divide, not widen it. Ask them: On which issues do you think the opposite party's position has merit? What legislative goal do you care so much about that you'd break with your own party if necessary to achieve it? What are you willing to give up in order to avert another budget impasse and government shutdown?
• Voters also need to be aware of the Republican Party's libertarian swing. The same well-organized force that nearly swept the state's GOP national convention delegation for presidential candidate Ron Paul is backing a number of new legislative candidates this year, including a handful who are challenging sitting Republican legislators in the primary. Voters in such districts who like their current representation should circle the primary date on their calendars.
• That date is Aug. 14. It's a month earlier than the traditional September date, which was forsaken two years ago to better enable overseas absentee voters to participate in the general election.
A primary at peak summer vacation time is less than ideal. But we have confidence in Minnesotans' ability to fulfill their civic responsibilities while simultaneously enjoying seasonal pleasures.
While we didn't send our memo, we hope to hear political patter in coming weeks in all the places it mentions. Our favorite old Twins ad slogan applies to legislative races this year: Get to know 'em.