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Our View: Group special elections on five days annually

Last year, Minnesota had 160 special elections in addition to the big one in November. These elections were to fill vacancies created by the death of an officeholder, created when an officeholder was elected to a different office, for special sch...

Last year, Minnesota had 160 special elections in addition to the big one in November. These elections were to fill vacancies created by the death of an officeholder, created when an officeholder was elected to a different office, for special school levies, etc.

One month from today, on Dec. 27, two days after Christmas, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has called two special elections to fill legislative vacancies. Some are criticizing him for choosing that date in hopes of a low voter turnout -- which is thought by some to favor Republicans.

However, it is within the law. The real issue is not Dec. 27, but the fact that Minnesotans were called to the polls 160 times in one year. Granted, those special elections were not statewide, but if participation is a laudable goal, the state ought to do something to make it easier for people to remember election day.

Our suggestion would be simple. The state should limit elections to five days during the year. Three of those dates are already traditional and should be retained. Those three are the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (general election day), the second Tuesday in September (primary election day) and the second Tuesday in March (township election day).

The other two dates should be spaced between those dates so when vacancies are created, citizens will not go unrepresented for an extended time. Along with holding special elections on the three traditional election dates, our recommendation is to hold special elections on the second Tuesday in January and the second Tuesday in June.

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The January date would be after the holiday season, but before the Legislature gets down to serious business in St. Paul.

The June date was chosen because it is halfway between the township election date and the primary election date.

By piggybacking on the three traditional dates, dollars would often be saved on special election costs. More importantly, if special elections are grouped, they will generate more interest among the electorate, as they feed off one another and gain media attention.

Primary votes for special elections should be made rarer. Held two weeks before the final special election, special election primaries should occur only if more than two candidates unaffiliated with a political party file. For special elections with party designation, parties would be allowed to nominate one candidate without hosting a primary.

Special elections are never ideal, but these changes would save tax dollars and increase turnout.

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