By one vote, House approves a June primary

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  • April 4, 2012 - 5:42 PM

By one vote, the Minnesota House on Wednesday approved moving the state's primary from August to June.

The slender approval reignites the debate about whether an early primary helps voters -- or lawmakers.

"It's about what's good for the people who are casting ballots," said supporter, Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

"This is an anti-challenger amendment," said opponent, Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth. She called it self-serving.

Setting the date for the primary elections, which, unlike the general election, moves around the calendar, has perennially tied lawmakers in knots. It's a issue that acutely impacts their careers but there is always bipartisan opposition and support for picking any date.

Just two years ago, the state moved it's primary date from September to August. That move, to comply with federal law on military ballots, breezed through the Legislature.

But this year's move has already had a bumpier ride.

On Wednesday, in the face of a split House, Speaker Kurt Zellers took the rare step of asking the entire House to decide whether the issue was relevant to debate or not. Normally, speakers make that decision on their own. The House decided should rightly be debated on the House floor.

Detractors said a June primary would protect incumbent members, giving challengers less time to make themselves known, could force lawmakers to deal with election issues, when they should be at the Capitol dealing with legislating and would make campaigns last way too long.

"Lawn signs that bloom with the tulips," said DFL Rep. Kathy Brynaert, of Mankato, sketching what she said was an uncomfortable future. "That is too long a campaign for our communities."

But supporters said voting in June would give candidates more time to present themselves to all voters, rather than just focusing on the few party faithful who vote in primaries, and would catch voters before they leave for summer vacations.

"You don't schedule an election in August in Minnesota. Everyone's checked out," said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. "It's pro-democracy."

The measure, which passed on a 66-65 vote, now goes before the Senate. Gov. Mark Dayton has long favored a June primary.

If it becomes law, it would take effect in January of 2013.

Here's the roll call vote on the measure:


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