Thursday, August 7, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Are You 'Odd'? Primaries and Local Control (8/7)

Question: Next week is the primary election, and I was wondering why our local officials are not on the ballot. What gives?

Answer: There are a few reasons why this may be the case. First off, not all cities have primary elections because whether to have a municipal primary is a decision made at the local level.

Any city can establish a city primary and have their city races on the primary ballot if the council adopts an ordinance or resolution by April 15 in the year when a municipal general election is held. The city clerk must notify the secretary of state and the county auditor within 30 days after the adoption of the resolution or ordinance. 

Once the city adopts a primary, it stays in effect for all ensuing elections until revoked by the council. The city must hold the primary on the second Tuesday in August of the year in which the city general election is held. 

For nonpartisan offices, a primary is not necessary if no more than twice the number of people to be elected file for office ( i.e., if two council seats are open, and four or fewer candidates file). In that case, the names of the candidates go directly on the general election ballot, sans partisan designation. There would then be no city races listed on the primary ballot alongside legislative, school board, or any other races happening that year.

Another reason you may not have city offices on your ballot is if you are "odd." And by that I mean, you have odd-year city elections. Cities have the option to have their local elections along with state and federal races in the even years or by themselves in the odd years.

Written by Amber Eisenschenk, staff attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1227.

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