Minn. lawmaker pushes for removal of labels in elections

Published 9:50 am Friday, March 11, 2016

ST. PAUL — A top Republican in the state House on Thursday pushed legislation that would take some of the party out of Minnesota politics.

Rep. Jim Knoblach’s bill would remove any mention of party affiliation on ballots for state legislators. Knoblach, who recently returned to the Legislature and is irked by what he sees as increased partisan and polarizing governing, said it’s time for a change.

“After being gone eight years, I think things are more partisan than ever,” said Knoblach, who is from St. Cloud.

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The measure would return legislative elections in Minnesota to their early form in the 20th century. From 1913 until the mid-1970s, legislators in Minnesota were elected without any party affiliation on ballots, although lawmakers in practice still did coalesce into conservative and liberal factions.

At least one other state, Nebraska, elects its legislators on a nonpartisan basis.

Knoblach acknowledged the Minnesota bill has little promise of passing this year, but he said it’s important to introduce the measure and spark the debate about the role parties play in state politics.

The Ways and Means Committee chairman said measures often stall because opposing parties back them or they are not thoroughly vetted. He said removing party labels on the ballot would allow lawmakers to come together around issues, not partisan politics.

“I believe excessive partisanship sometimes gets in the way of accomplishing things,” he said.