Presidential Nomination Primary Bill Heard in House Committee

The League-supported bill proposes urgent and critical changes to the presidential nomination primary law.
(Published Mar 11, 2019)

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HF 1153 (Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan), a League-supported bill that proposes needed changes to the presidential nomination primary law, was heard on March 6 in the House Subcommittee on Elections.

Blaine City Clerk Cathy Sorensen, who chairs the League’s Elections Task Force, testified in support of the bill at the hearing, where it was laid over for possible inclusion in an elections omnibus bill.

The companion bill, SF 847 (Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope), awaits action in the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

Provisions of the bill

In 2016, the Legislature passed into law a process for the state of Minnesota to conduct a presidential nomination primary in 2020, replacing the party caucus system for nominating a candidate. This will be administered by cities and counties, similar to the way other elections are conducted. HF 1153 would amend some provisions in the current law that are concerning to cities and the League.

Privacy of party choice

Under the current law, when someone chooses to participate in the presidential nomination primary, their party choice will be recorded on the public information list. This list is accessible any registered voter in Minnesota by request to the Office of the Secretary of State (OSS).

While the primary is a political activity, those who choose to participate will not anticipate that their party choice will be public information. City election administrators and election judges will be the first point of contact for Minnesotans’ concerns.

HF 1153 would amend this requirement so that party choice would only be distributed to the political parties and would not be public information.

Ensuring reimbursement to cities

Current law details a process for local units of government to be reimbursed for expenses incurred from conducting the primary. The OSS will submit to the Department of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) an estimated cost of administering the election, and MMB will provide funding to the OSS. That funding will then be distributed to local units of government as a reimbursement based on expense reporting submitted to the OSS.

HF 1153 would add language that will ensure that local units of government are reimbursed for unanticipated costs. While cities can anticipate and plan as much as possible for reimbursable items, this is a new process and new expenses could emerge. The League has advocated for ensuring that no expense of this political party activity is borne by city residents.

Mail balloting

HF 1153 would allow for the primary to be conducted via mail balloting. Mail balloting would ensure privacy by allowing voters to participate from their homes rather than a public polling place.

Mail balloting could also conserve resources and increase voter participation. The last time the state of Minnesota held a presidential primary was in 1992, and turnout was very low. There is concern that this could happen in 2020 and would therefore be an inefficient use of resources, particularly staffing thousands of precincts throughout the state.

League priority

Amending the presidential nomination primary law is a legislative priority for the League of Minnesota Cities. The League’s goal is to ensure that it is a successful process for cities to administer, and that Minnesotans who choose to participate have the best possible experience.

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