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House OKs omnibus elections bill with uniform special-election days

By Chris Steller
Rep. Kelly Fenton presents the omnibus elections bill on the House Floor May 21. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Having local special elections take place on only five calendar days throughout the calendar year is one provision of the omnibus elections bill passed by the House Sunday.

In most cases, a special election held in a city, town or school district would have to “be held 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.”

The House passed HF729/ SF514*, as amended, 127-5. It now returns to the Senate where it was passed 34-33 May 15.

Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury), who sponsors the bill with Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), successfully offered a delete-all amendment that she said stripped some provisions of the original House bill as necessary to ensure “broad, bipartisan support.”

The House rejected two changes to her amendment. Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins) proposed early voting 15 days ahead of Election Day, replacing the current seven days, while Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth) proposed opt-out automatic voter registration to replace the current opt-in system.

Fenton called the bill “common-sense election reform.” Among several provisions she highlighted, the bill would:

  • make technical corrections sought by the secretary of state’s office;
  • allow county recorders to be appointed rather than elected in six counties;
  • establish a deadline for voter registration data uploads to the secretary of state’s office; and
  • provide for unpaid leaves of absence for tribal government officials. 

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