Thursday, March 27, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Primary Election Newbies (3/27)

Question: Can our city have a primary election? We have never had one before.

Answer: Yes, a city council can choose to have a municipal primary election for the purpose of nominating elective officers prior to the municipal general election. 


For most cities, elective officers are the mayor and councilmembers. However, some cities have elected clerks and even more rarely an elected treasurer. 

Some cities choose to hold a primary because they regularly get a lot of candidates filing for office or because their city charters require it. 

If you think your city would benefit from a primary election, it's time to get the process underway. First, your council must pass a resolution or ordinance calling for the primary election. The resolution or ordinance must be adopted by April 15 and is effective for all future primary elections until the council revokes it.

The city clerk is responsible for notifying the county auditor and Minnesota Secretary of State within 30 days of the council adopting the resolution or ordinance.

The municipal primary election must be held in conjunction with the state primary election, which in 2014 is on Aug. 12. So while it may create more administrative work for the city, at least there will not be an additional election day the city would be responsible for.

Who advances
After the city council has canvassed the primary election results, the two candidates who receive the highest number of votes (or a number of candidates equal to twice the number of individuals to be elected to the office) are the individuals listed on the ballot during the general election. For example, on the general election ballot there would be two candidates listed for mayor. If the city was electing two councilmembers then there would be four candidates listed on the ballot to choose from. These individuals do not need to pay an additional filing fee to be on the general election ballot.

For more information, see Minn. Stat. § 205.065.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.

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