It’s not unusual for politicians to change positions over the course of a campaign. In the Minneapolis mayor’s race, there’s one issue on which almost all the leading candidates have flip-flopped: the filing fee they paid to put their names on the ballot.
At a debate last week, six of the top candidates agreed: It should be harder file for office in Minneapolis. It currently costs just $20.
But at another debate, two months earlier, the same candidates said the fee should stay low.
A record 35 candidates filed to run for mayor this year, thanks in part to the low fee, which hasn’t been raised since 1967.
The crowded field was already in place at the time of the August debate, but the candidates hadn’t seen the ballot at that point. As you can see, it features the daunting list in triplicate, because the city uses ranked-choice voting.
Based on a mathematical formula, there are 40,495 possible combinations of candidates, and it’s clear many voters are overwhelmed.
City Clerk Casey Carl predicted that would happen. He asked the City Council to hike the fee earlier this year. But the proposal fizzled, because several council members didn’t want to tinker with the ground rules during an election year. It takes a unanimous vote of the council to raise the fees.
There appears to be a growing consensus that next time around, the bar to get on the ballot needs to be higher. Mayor R.T. Rybak recently said as much on his blog. The Minneapolis Charter Commission will take up the issue after the election.
“With a lame duck council and a lame duck mayor, now is the time,” Commissioner Devin Rice said.
Rice, who voted against the fee hike in March, now proposes raising the cost to $300 for mayoral candidates. He says his earlier objections were about the timing of the proposed hike, not the merits of the issue.
Several of the current mayoral candidates say that rather than paying a fee, potential candidates should have to collect signatures. That’s already an option. Under state law, the city must waive the filing fee if candidates convince enough eligible Minneapolis voters to sign a petition. In the case of the mayor’s race, it takes 500 signatures.
With the current $20 filing fee, almost nobody takes that route. Out of the 108 people running for office in Minneapolis tomorrow, only one candidate, city council hopeful Kris Brogan, took the time to circulate a petition.