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Proposal would move Minnesota primary election to August 2010

Minnesotans may be heading to the polls a month earlier next year to cast their vote in the state's primary election.

Three senators announced recently that they will be working next legislative session to move the primary election date from September to August.

Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), the bill's author, Senator Ann H. Rest (DFL-New Hope), chair of the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee and Senator Katie Sieben (DFL-Cottage Grove), chair of the Senate Elections Subcommittee, are hopeful that the primary date change will be one of the first bills signed by the governor in 2010.

Moving up the primary has been a topic of discussion for several years in the Legislature. Last year, the primary date change was included in a larger elections policy bill that was passed by both the House and Senate, but was later vetoed by Governor Pawlenty.

Due to a recent change in federal law that requires states to give military and overseas voters at least 45 days to receive and mail back their general election ballot, the change is now a necessity.

"The next election is right around the corner," said Bonoff. "We need to get this legislation passed as soon as possible to make sure we are ready to comply with the new federal election requirements next August and to allow local election officials to make the necessary preparations. Our plan is to have the bill presented in committee in the first few days of session and to have it passed by the Senate in the first week of session."

The Secretary of State's office reported that more than 11,000 Minnesotans voted from overseas in the last general election. Of those, about 4 percent arrive too late to be counted.

"A primary in September does not give our overseas voters, especially those men and women who are serving in the military, enough time to get their vote in to be counted," said Rest. "Moving the primary to August will help to ensure that their votes count."

"This is a common sense bill that we are confident will see support from both sides of the aisle," said Sieben. "Every Minnesotan has the right to vote and it is our job to ensure that every vote is counted. Moving the primary up is an easy way to accomplish this."