Should Minneapolis raise the price to run for mayor?

The Minneapolis Charter Commission this week considers a proposal to raise to cost of entering the race for mayor from $20 to $500.

City staff argue the higher fee will help weed out “frivolous candidates” and present voters with a “serious ballot.”

The $20 fee has been in place since 1967 and applies to all city offices. The proposal also raises the cost of filing for city council to $250. Park board candidates would pay $50.

Minneapolis no longer uses a primary election to winnow the field of candidates in municipal elections. As a result, voters could be presented with a dizzying array of options on their ranked choice ballots, especially in this year’s wide-open mayor’s race.

Even four years ago, when incumbent mayor R.T. Rybak’s re-election was a foregone conclusion, 10 candidates chipped in their $20 for the privilege of sharing the ballot with him.

There are already at least a half a dozen credible candidates running for mayor this year. One says the more, the merrier.

“Money cannot determine who can and cannot run for public office,” former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew said in a press release. “More voices create a stronger debate and stronger leaders.”

State law sets filing fees for public offices around the state — starting as low as $2 for cities with fewer than 10,000 residents — but cities with their own charter, like Minneapolis, are allowed to charge whatever they want.

St. Paul raised its filing fees in 2011, along the same lines Minneapolis is considering. It was the first time the city raised filing fees in 39 years.

“Taking inflation into account, $50 in 1972 was worth $269 in 2011,” Ramsey County Elections manager Joe Mansky said. “And in those days, the council members were running citywide. Now they run in just one-seventh of the city, which is why the mayor’s filing fee is now higher than the filing fee for council member.”

State law allows a candidate to collect signatures rather than paying the fee. Candidates for Minneapolis mayor would need to find 919 500 people to sign their petitions in order to get on the ballot that way.