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Changes to voting in Duluth being considered

DULUTH, MN — Changes could be coming to municipal elections in Duluth.

The Duluth Charter Commission is exploring the idea of moving municipal elections, held on odd years, to the same time as mid-term and presidential elections.

Still very early on in the discussion, it’s hard to say exactly what the future of this idea is, but the mission is clear.

“It’s about engaging voters,” said Jeff Anderson, a Duluth charter commissioner.

Anderson also said part of the reason this is being considered is to increase voter participation in municipal elections.

Anderson says the group will weigh whether such a move is in the public’s benefit. He says there’s also a financial incentive.

“At the end of the day, I think the commission will weigh whether this is in the public’s benefit. Is there more to gain by putting the elections in a year where we have more people who show up, we save $100,000-$200,000 of tax-payer money. Those are things to consider,” he said.

St. Louis County Auditor Donald Dicklich supports the idea on one condition. The Charter Commission is also weighing the idea of Approval Voting.

This method is a single-winner electoral system where each voter may select any number of candidates, and the winner is the most-approved candidate.

Dicklich says changing election dates and approval voting shouldn’t coexist, because there would be two ways of voting on the same ballot,

Approval voting would only apply to municipal races, not state and federal.

“You do not want to mix those two election styles,” said Dicklich, “People would be too confused.”

The commission, however, has opted not to bring approval voting forward this year.

Dicklich also cautions moving municipal elections could cause local issues to take a back seat.

“You’ve got presidential issues, you’ve got US Senate issues, Congressional issues,  and all that white noise may drown out the issues of a local election,” Dicklich said.

Anderson said he also has concerns.

“As a charter commissioner, I have not decided whether or not I support this as an initiative,” he said.

Anderson shares similar concerns as Dicklich when it comes to moving the elections. He says the more prominent political figures appear on the front of the ballot, so it’s likely mayoral, city council and other municipal races would be on the back.

Anderson said the change would likely result in some changes to term-lengths for some positions as well to get the municipal elections to line up with Presidential and mid-term elections.  Despite that, he said it’s still something worth considering.

“It’s good to have discussions about these things,” he said.

Anderson says if the commission votes to move forward with the change, it would most likely be a ballot question for voters to decide in November.

The commission will make their recommendations to the city council around June.

The City council has to approve it unanimously,  or the commission can submit it as a ballot question for this November.  That means voters would decide the issue.

If it’s submitted as a ballot question, the city council controls the language used on the ballot.

What do you think of the idea? Take our poll.

[poll id=”10″]

Reporter Anthony Matt

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