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Locally elected leaders against bill to make local elections partisan

The Grand Forks City Council voted this week to oppose House Bill 1375, which would require candidates in local elections to declare a political party or run as independents.

Grand Forks City Hall (Herald photo/Sam Easter)
Grand Forks City Hall. Sam Easter / Grand Forks Herald
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The Grand Forks City Council voted this week to oppose House Bill 1375, which would require candidates in local elections to declare a political party or run as independents.

According to the bill's sponsors, it is an effort to increase transparency in local elections.

For a majority of council members who voted to oppose the bill and Mayor Mike Brown, they said it would corrupt local government's ability to accomplish anything.

"The best form of government, the most effective form of government, is local government," council member Bret Weber said on Tuesday. "I think one of the reasons local government is so effective is because it is aloof from the partisan ideological battles that have crippled government at the federal level."

Members voted to oppose Louser's bill 4-1 Tuesday night, with council member Danny Weigel dissenting.


Council President Dana Sande and council member Sandi Marshall were absent.

According to Weigel, the council wasn't prepared to make a decision on the bill Tuesday night, and the discussion was one-sided.

"It wasn't on the agenda to talk about," Weigel said. "And missing obviously two other council members, I wanted to have their input."

Council member Jeannie Mock brought up the bill during an update from city staff on the city's Legislative Committee, which meets every Friday to review bills in the Legislature.

"I think part of the issue is that we all hold those local level seats and we ran as nonpartisan candidates," Mock said. "That was something that was a huge factor in me deciding to run."

Three Republican Grand Forks lawmakers-Sen. Scott Meyer and Reps. Jake Blum and Mark Owens-are co-sponsoring the proposed legislation.

Council Vice President Ken Vein, who also co-chairs the city's Legislative Committee with Weber, told the council it can still change its stance if more information surfaces before a committee reviews the bill. The council opted to vote on Tuesday, members said, in case a hearing is scheduled before the council meets again.

Neither Mock nor Weigel had been contacted by the Grand Forks legislators supporting Louser's bill, they said.


Weigel said on Wednesday he planned to email the co-sponsors for their reasoning.

Meyer, Blum and Owens recently said they supported the bill in hopes it will help voters make more informed decisions on lesser known races.

"I don't believe that," Mock said on Wednesday. "I don't believe a letter by your name should define who you are."

Weigel, who told fellow council members Tuesday night he could see the positive and negative sides of the bill, recalled many voters asking for his political affiliation while he was campaigning.

"When I was out knocking on doors and talking to people, they would ask me, you know, 'Are you Republican or Democrat?' Out of every five people I talked to I probably got that question two or three times."

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