Focus on New Laws: Election Changes

Changes include requiring uniform special election dates, clarifying language for changing from an odd- to even-year election, and grant funding to replace aging election equipment.
(Published Jul 17, 2017)

The 2017 omnibus elections bill (HF 729/SF 514) was authored by Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury) and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) and signed into law as Chapter 92. Below are provisions that may be of interest to cities.

Uniform special election dates
Article 2 requires local units of government to hold special elections on one of the following dates: the second Tuesday in February; the second Tuesday in April; the second Tuesday in May; the second Tuesday in August; or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Exceptions can be made if the election is held in response to an emergency or disaster.

Cities must establish polling places for the following year by ordinance or resolution by Dec. 31, but there is an exception that allows the city to change a polling place if the designated polling place becomes unavailable.

These changes take effect on Jan. 1, 2018, and apply to any special election held on or after that date.

Odd- to even-year election
Section 23 amends Minnesota Statutes, section 205.07, subdivision 1, clarifying the procedural timeline for a city to change from odd-year municipal elections to even-year, or vice versa. A city council would do so by passing an ordinance at a regular meeting held at least 180 calendar days before the first day to file for candidacy in the next municipal election.

Election judge party affiliation
Section 15 amends Minnesota Statutes, section 204B.21, allowing political parties to provide a list of election judges who are willing to travel to a precinct outside of their home jurisdiction. The language was adopted to help precincts that may have difficulty in meeting party balance if they can have elections judges only from their home jurisdictions.

This section also allows for election judge party affiliation information to be shared among election judges in a precinct to verify compliance with party balance requirements. The data cannot be used for any other purpose.

Canvassing returns
Section 22 amends Minnesota Statutes, section 205.065, subdivision 5 to allow municipalities to canvass election returns on either the second or third day after the primary, instead of having to wait for the third day. The League of Minnesota Cities currently has a policy in support of this change.

Election equipment grant funding
First Special Session Chapter 4, the omnibus state government finance bill, included an appropriation of $7 million to the election equipment grant program. This funding is to be used to replace aging election equipment or to purchase electronic pollbooks.

A political subdivision is eligible to receive a grant of no more than 75 percent of the total cost of electronic roster equipment and 50 percent of all other equipment or technology authorized for a grant. Funding was available to the Office of the Secretary of State as of July 1, 2017. The appropriation is available until June 30, 2020.

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