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Minnesota Legislature

New Law: New process for filling vacancies

Published (7/15/2011)
By Nick Busse
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It used to be that if a candidate for a nonpartisan office died or withdrew from the race, the process of replacing them could fill the ballot with potentially dozens of replacement candidates. A new law is designed to prevent that from happening.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Sanders (R-Blaine) and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), the law is designed to decrease the chance that large number of candidates will show up on the General Election ballot vying for the same office. It affects nonpartisan offices, which include local and judicial races.

Unless otherwise noted, its provisions are effective May 25, 2011.

If only one or two candidates file to run for a particular office, a primary is not required; they both simply appear on the General Election ballot. But under the old statute, if one of those candidates withdrew from the race, anyone who gathered enough signatures for a nominating petition could get on the ballot. The end result was that numerous candidates — more than two dozen, in the case of one judicial race in 2010 — could appear on the General Election ballot.

The law changes the process so that candidates looking to fill a vacancy in nomination no longer enter the race by way of a nominating petition, but rather by filing in the same manner as regular candidates, including a two-day withdrawal period. This will speed up the process and help narrow down the potential field of candidates. It also allows for replacement candidates to run in a primary when one is needed.

The law also changes the process when a candidate dies after winning the primary by providing that the election goes forward anyway. If there were more than one candidate, the other candidate would win; if the deceased was the sole candidate in the race, then a vacancy in office would be created. Laws already in place determine how such a vacancy is to be filled.

The law pushes the filing deadline for candidates in cities and school districts that hold their General Elections in November but do not have primaries back by one week. Effective Aug. 1, 2011, the law also gives county canvassing boards the choice of conducting their canvassing on the second rather than the third day following the state primary.

HF1408/ SF1009*/CH65

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