Minnesota External Opinion
In the past, we have agreed with the Minnesota Voters Alliance in their opposition to Ranked Choice Voting and appreciated their willingness to take the issue all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court which allowed the flawed system to be used. In this case, we strongly disagree and do believe the state of Minnesota can segregate the Presidential Primary electorate based on party preference. Minnesota is not a party registration state, but the identification of which party ballot a person casts is a worthy piece of information when trying to discern what the local, regional and statewide party preference is. Because the participation in a Primary Election is never as large as a General Election, this should be viewed like a poll, a snapshot in time. Also, because the allocation of delegates, which are representatives of our state at a national level, to at least the Democratic National Convention could be affected by these numbers in lieu of a Presendtial Straw Poll on Precinct Caucus night, we support this idea. In fact, we have advanced this concept for over two decades.
For the record, we have avoided editing this submission, because it is not our offering.
Secretary of State Simon Wants to Continue Tracking Your Party Preference in Minnesota’s Presidential Primary
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has identified an error of his own making and is now proposing a solution that is built on further institutionalizing the fundamental problem itself.
With the full support and encouragement of Secretary Simon, the Minnesota Legislature changed the law in 2016 to allow political parties to conduct their presidential primary selections (during March of presidential election years) using the state election system. Previously, the Democrats and Republicans conducted caucuses and managed their own internal affairs.
Mr. Simon, however, insisted on entwining party politics with public elections and drove the legislature to adopt the current mishmash of laws and rules that puts the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) database right in the middle. This ill-advised injection of political operations into the election system corrupts its sole, proper purpose which is to keep track of who is eligible to vote (not whom they vote for), when they vote, along with their methods of voting such as in-person, mail-in, or absentee.
Specifically, election judges are currently tasked with handing you a Republican or Democrat ballot, whichever is requested in the polling place, and the election system keeps track of which party you selected.Thus, there is a permanent, public record of your party preference stored along with other public voter information. That is the “privacy” Mr. Simon has been all in favor of since the beginning.
Now comes along Mr. Simon (Rochester Post Bulletin op-ed, May 1, 2019) wearing a new mantle of “doing everything possible to protect the privacy of your vote.”Contrary to what he promoted in 2016, Simon now says your party choice should be removed from the “public list,” the compilation of voter information widely distributed to anyone who pays $46 for a computer disk provided by his office. Big deal. That is doing almost nothing to protect your privacy, let alone doing “everything possible.”
During court proceedings in the ongoing Minnesota Voters Alliance lawsuit against Mr. Simon, he has claimed the authority to reveal, or conceal, as he chooses, information that is not on the public list. So, removing your party preference from the public list will leave him in complete control of disseminating that information to his political friends, your employer, your neighbors, or others of his choosing. When the Secretary says he wants to “protect” the privacy of our votes, we need to understand he means he wants to “control” the privacy of our party preferences.
Here is Mr. Simon’s “fix” for the damaged presidential primary system he helped create: keep using the election system for political party purposes, retain the permanent tracking of your party choice, put the information under his control for handing out to his friends and political associates, and mandate giving it to the political parties.
Mr. Simon’s fakery on this matter is just a continuation of the partisan onslaught of corrupt election bills he and his allies have flooded the Minnesota House with during this session: felon voting, driver’s licenses for illegals, 16-year-old registration, forcing landlords to promote registration to their tenants, and dozens more. All of these proposals have the singular purpose of increasing voting in Democrat precincts and constituencies while expanding the ease with which ineligible persons may vote without repercussion.
The Secretary’s longstanding history of refusing to comply with public disclosure laws, ignoring evidence of ineligible voting from official sources, spurning legislative inquiries, and making misleading claims about the integrity of the election system establish his personal untrustworthiness.
So his perverted concern about the burdensome administration costs (“$110,000 in Rochester alone”) caused by the presidential primary scheme he spawned comes as no surprise. If he wanted to get taxpayers out from under those expenditures, he would propose a return to the previous system in which the political parties spent their own money on selecting a presidential candidate. That would be the ideal solution for protecting voters’ privacy.
Short of that, a simple change to the law would be sufficient: do not track which party’s ballot a voter selects in the presidential primary. No tracking equals full privacy.
In any case, the Secretary of State, and especially Steve Simon, should never have the authority to disclose your party preference to anyone, including the political parties. With anything less, the privacy of your vote is not protected. It is violated.
Andrew E. Cilek
Minnesota Voters Alliance
– an election integrity watchdog group