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Should vacant county attorney, sheriff positions be filled by appointment or special election?

(House Photography file photo)
(House Photography file photo)

If a county attorney or sheriff leaves, should their replacement be chosen by a handful of bureaucrats or the people they represent?

Current law requires a county board to appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of the term, but a former representative wonders if there’s a more inclusive way.

Dakota County Commissioner Laurie Halverson spoke to the House Elections Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. John Huot (DFL-Rosemount) that would give a county board the option of appointment or a special election to fill a vacant county sheriff or attorney opening.

As amended, HF3632 was approved and sent to the House Floor.

“The appointment process ends up taking the voter out of a very important relationship. The county attorney and county sheriff play an important role for our communities and our voters. That relationship, to me, is one that shouldn’t have a barrier between it or have a board … create an incumbent essentially to go into a general election,” said Halverson, a DFLer who represented mostly parts of Eagan from 2013-20.

She acknowledges that running a special election could be cost-prohibitive, which could weigh into a board’s decision to elect or appoint.

The bill calls for a special election to be held on the second Tuesday of February, April, May, or August or “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.”


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