Minnesota Secretary Of State - Secretary Simon Introduces Presidential Primary Voter Privacy Bill
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Secretary Simon Introduces Presidential Primary Voter Privacy Bill

February 7, 2020

SAINT PAUL — Yesterday, Secretary Simon, in partnership with House and Senate authors, introduced a bill (HF 3068) that will address voter privacy concerns for Minnesota's March 3, 2020 Presidential Nomination Primary.

The bill will:

  • Restrict sharing of party preference data only to a national party representative and only for the purpose of verifying participation in the Presidential Nomination Primary
  • Classify party preference as private data, which carries specific requirements for those receiving the information, and consequences for disseminating information to the public or other third party
  • Create an opt-out mechanism, whereby voters can be excluded from the list in the same fashion they can opt out of the public information list

What’s the issue?
Minnesota voters will be participating in a Presidential Nomination Primary (PNP) on March 3, 2020, to help select the candidates who will appear on the ballot for the November 2020 presidential election.

To participate, voters must choose between a Democratic and Republican ballot. Who people vote for will be secret. However, under current law, all four major political parties: Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), Republican Party of Minnesota, Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party, and Legal Marijuana Now Party, will get a record of which ballot individuals select. Right now, there are no restrictions for how parties can use this data.

What are people saying?
Small business owners and nonprofits, the clergy, local government officials, and others, have contacted the Office expressing concern about parties receiving party preference information. One worry is that the parties or someone they provide this information to, could use it to “out” individuals, especially those who want to project fairness and objectivity in their professions.

Minnesota is one of only 19 states that does not ask voters to publicly declare affiliation with a political party. In its current state, the law regarding the PNP can be seen as a backdoor party registration system.

How did this happen?
Legislators decided to adopt a PNP after record numbers of Minnesota voters overwhelmed the 2016 caucuses. Both Democratic and Republican parties advocated to receive party preference information, to confirm who participated in their primary. Without this party preference information, the national parties say they will not recognize Minnesota’s PNP results as binding.