A news story you
are unlikely to see:
Voters Demand Longer Campaigns
MN – In a rally at the state capitol, citizens from around
Minnesota gathered to demand a longer political campaign season.
elections are just too short,” said Natalie Johnson of
Bloomington. “Those 30-second television commercials are so
darn informative. Why should we have to wait until late summer to
begin seeing them?” she asked.
Olsen came all the way from Fergus Falls to plead for action. “If
we move the primary to June, we would start seeing the campaign ads
by February or March,” Mr. Olsen observed. He said that he and
his co-workers at a local auto repair shop like to start focusing on
the upcoming election in January or February. “We voters pay
attention, but the candidates won’t air their commercials that
soon unless we move up the primary,” Olsen said.
organizers said the massive turnout showed strong support for S.F.
893, legislation moving the primary election from September to June.
For 2008, that would nearly triple the length of the general election
campaign from 8 to 22 weeks.
observed, “Sure, there may be some people who complain, but
they’re just whiners. We want campaigns to last year-around.
This bill is a step in the right direction, making the campaigns much
people don’t pay much attention to politics. But if we make the
campaigns longer, I’m sure they'll pay more attention,”
Minnesota Really Need Longer Campaigns?
by Senator John Marty
Ask Minnesota voters whether they want longer or
shorter campaigns. No doubt 90 percent or more think they are already
Yet despite strong public opposition to long
campaigns, legislation to make the election season three months
longer -- moving the primary from September to early June -- is
likely to pass this year. It has support from some of the state's
wealthiest campaign donors and candidates, numerous lobbyists,
campaign consultants and both the DFL and Republican Parties. Against
that political clout, it may not matter how many voters object.
Voters might support a Presidential primary early
in the year to increase Minnesota's influence in the presidential
nomination process, but the date of the state's primary for other
offices is totally unrelated to that.
Supporters of a June primary argue that there is
not enough time for candidates to get their message out to voters.
But the problem isn't a lack of time; it is political parties and
candidates providing too little substance and relying on 30-second
attack ads that do little to educate voters.
In other democracies around the world, where
campaigns are shorter, voters are more engaged and voter turnout is
significantly higher. The same holds true in Minnesota, which has one
of the shortest general election seasons among the states but the
highest public involvement and voter turnout. Shorter, more intense
elections help focus public attention on the issues and candidates.
The biggest change voters would notice if the
primary moves from September to June would be three more months of
political ads -- as candidates begin bashing each other in those
misleading TV ads beginning as early as March or April. The campaign
advertising season already lasts so long that many voters are turned
off before they begin to pay serious attention.
It is not as if candidates wait until the primary
to go door-to-door, meet voters and discuss issues. The date of the
primary is largely irrelevant to their voter education and contact
Supporters of the June primary argue that it is
difficult to get absentee ballots to overseas voters when the primary
is only eight weeks before the general election. But there are better
ways to address that problem.
Supporters of the June primary also make the
argument that Minnesota’s September date means candidates
coming through a divisive primary face a disadvantage with less than
two months before the election. But history shows that heavily
contested primaries don't put the primary victor at a disadvantage
heading towards November.
I agree that the pre-primary campaign season is
too long, and too much energy is spent in the internal party
selection process. But making the general election campaign too long
as well, is no solution. The June primary legislation does nothing to
rein in the number of months that candidates spend campaigning. There
is no easy way to do so, short of passing much-needed campaign
finance reform, something that the political parties and strongest
supporters of the June primary have opposed.
It is significant that the wealthiest contributors
and candidates, political consultants and both the DFL and Republican
Parties support the June primary. These are the very people
responsible for the majority of those uninformative, misleading, and
often nasty TV ads. These folks are the ones who develop, fund, and
air the ads. They have the most to gain if they get three more months
to blast their ads at the public.
The way campaigns are currently run and financed
is broken and urgently needs reform, but the solution is not to
lengthen campaigns and spend more money. More money and longer
campaigns are a dream of political consultants, not the average