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Wanna buy your way onto the Minneapolis mayoral ballot? Fee could rise to $250

The current fee is $20, one reason the city voters saw a 35-candidate mayoral ballot last year. But a tentative supporter says higher fees won’t mean fewer candidates.

The Minneapolis Charter Commission Wednesday unanimously approved raising the filing fees for the city’s mayor’s race to $250, up from the current $20.

Pressure has built to raise the fee in recent elections; 2013’s single Ranked Choice Voting mayoral ballot featured 35 candidates. Candidates can also petition their way on a ballot if they gather enough signatures, but many simply threw down the $20.

The Charter Commission vote — which includes other city offices — does not make higher fees law; that’s up to the City Council and mayor, if all approve unanimously. Charter Commission chair Barry Clegg says he’s been told there are “at least” 12 votes on the 13-member council for the change.

The city has not its fees since the 1960s, says Council Member Cam Gordon, writing on the Minneapolis-Issues discussion list. Gordon notes he was the lone vote last December to raise the mayoral fee to $500, but “at this time I am inclined to support” the $250 compromise.

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“It would keep Minneapolis’ fees lower than St. Paul [$500] and much more in line with what $20 was worth in the ’60s … and more in keeping with the costs of filing for state office,” Gordon wrote.

If unanimity fails, the Charter Commission or Council could put the issue on a future city ballot as a charter change. Clegg notes in that event, his body could change the language or the fee structure should it want to.

Other filing fees would be:

  • $100 for City Council, up from $20
  • $50 for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, up from $20
  • $20 for the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation, no increase.

A proposal last year would’ve raised the Council filing fee to $250. The current initiative does not change petition-signature levels, which remain an alternative for cash-strapped candidates, or those who would rather demonstrate public support.

State law sets the petition-signature level for local races at 500, or 5 percent in the last election, whichever is fewer. The 500-signature level would be in force for Minneapolis’ 2017 mayoral election.

Gordon doesn’t believe the compromise higher fees will make for smaller ballots. “Many people think (incorrectly I think) that raising the fee will have an impact on the number of candidates who file.”