Minnesota secretary of state is the only statewide office on the ballot this year without an incumbent in the race, and Democrats and Republicans are set to pick their candidates this weekend.
People in each party who want the job have strong opinions about it, and the secretary of state has taken on a much higher profile since those election recounts in 2008 and 2010.
For Democrats, it's the only endorsement question they need to answer at their state convention in Duluth. The incumbent DFL governor, U.S. senator, attorney general and auditor are all seeking re-election.
But two-term Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is not running again. DFL delegates will pick between two state representatives, Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center or Steve Simon of Hopkins, as their choice to try to replace Ritchie. Both have pledged to abide by the endorsement.
Hilstrom is serving her seventh term in the Minnesota House, and is currently the chair of the Judiciary Finance and Policy Committee. Hilstrom said as secretary of state she would advocate for an early voting law and take other steps to improve access.
"You make certain that the hours are accessible. You make certain that those who actually can't make it to the polls, you make it easier to access for them to access their absentee ballot,"Hilstrom said. "You also make it so that if you pass early voting, that you have additional opportunities to actually bring voting out to the voters when it's convenient for them."
The latest campaign finance reports showed Hilstrom with less than $16,000 on hand, compared to Steve Simon with nearly $61,000.
Simon is serving his fifth term in the Minnesota House, and chairs the Elections Committee. He described himself as a consistent champion for voters' rights.
"For the last 10 years I've really put my heart and soul into exactly the issues that relate to this office: ballot access, election reform, voter rights, and I put my money where my mouth is,"he said. "Two years ago, I went around the state and several times debated proponents of the photo ID constitutional amendment."
The two Republican candidates are former state Sen. John Howe of Red Wing and former state Rep. Dan Severson of Sauk Rapids. They were late entries, jumping in after Dennis Nguyen abruptly ended his campaign back in March.
Both said they plan to drop out if they aren't endorsed.
Severson ran for the same office in 2010, losing to Ritchie by more than 70,000 votes in the general election. He raised concerns about election integrity in that campaign and he's doing the same this year.
Severson is concerned about ineligible felons casting ballots. He remains convinced that there is a voter fraud problem, even though top prosecutors and researchers have disputed such claims. Severson is also proposing a voluntary version of the photo ID requirement that voters rejected in 2012.
"When you're out there to cast a vote, you want to believe that your vote counts one vote,"he said. "When somebody else votes two or three times, you no longer have a vote. You have a portion of a vote."
John Howe said he also wants to ensure election integrity. But unlike the other candidates, Howe is emphasizing that his business background would help him carry out other important duties of the office.
"There's a whole other side of the secretary of state's office, and that is making sure that business registration is streamlined,"Howe said. "We had about 16,000 new businesses register in the first quarter of 2014. We need to be able to connect those registrations to people who are seeking jobs in our state."
There's an even wider money gap between the GOP candidates. First quarter reports showed Howe with a balance of $220,000, which is listed as his loan to the campaign.
Severson had just $372.
Republicans are scheduled to endorse a candidate for secretary of state on Friday at their state convention in Rochester. DFL delegates will make their pick on Saturday.
The Independence Party has already endorsed Bob Helland of St. Paul as its secretary of state candidate.