Minnesota Secretary Of State - Public Comments
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Public Comments


You have until 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, to submit written comment in support of or in opposition to the proposed rules or any part or subpart of the rules. Your comment must be in writing and received by the agency contact person by the due date. Comment is encouraged. Your comments should identify the portion of the proposed rules addressed, the reason for the comment, and any change proposed. You are encouraged to propose any change that you desire. Any comments that you have about the legality of the proposed rules must also be made during this comment period.

Submit any comments or questions on the rules or written requests for a public hearing to Bert Black at the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, 180 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, MN 55155; Phone 651-201-1326; Email bert.black@state.mn.us. TTY users may call the Office of Secretary of State at 711.

All material related to these proposed amendments are available to request and can also be made available in an alternative format, such as large print, Braille, or audio.


Dear Mr. Black:
This letter is to register my objection to certain provisions included in the above-referenced rule regarding polling place voting (sec 8215.0300) in presidential primaries, and to request that public hearings be held on this rule.
I object to the following items included in sec 8215.0300:

  • Subpart 1. This provision requires the voter to identify affiliation with a particular political party.
  • Subpart 2. This provision requires the election judge to officially document the voter’s affiliation with a particular political party.
  • Subpart 3. This provision denies citizens who choose to keep their political affiliations to themselves the right to vote in the presidential primary election.
  • Subpart 4. This is an additional documentation of a citizen’s political preferences, which a citizen should be entitled to keep secret if he or she chooses.


I object to the following items included in sec 8215.0400:

  • Subpart 6. This requires the county auditor or municipal clerk to enter a citizen’s personal identification information and his political party identification in an official government register.
  • Subpart 7. This limits the ability of the citizen to change his political affiliations.


My objections to the provisions listed above is as follows:

I believe that the provisions above will tend to the increase of corruption in Minnesota’s political process.

Minnesota has a long history of open primary elections, which allow citizens to freely vote for the primary candidates of their choice in private, without fear of public disclosure, intimidation, or reprisal. I believe this tradition should be maintained. Requiring citizens to publicly declare their political affiliations in order to participate in the democratic process is simply wrong.

Secondly, the specific, personally identified political information gathered in this way will be used by the various political parties to target private citizens with annoying robocalls, requests for political contributions, and to gerrymander political districts in a way which gives unfair advantage to the majority political party. I realize that political parties already have ways of gathering this information. However, I do not want the state government to make its acquisition even easier.

If I must disclose my political affiliations in order to vote in a primary, I will not vote.

Sincerely,

Jody Keppers
620 Ridgewood Road
Duluth, MN 55804
218-409-6409
jkeppers@keppersdesign.com

 

 

 

Good Morning Bert,

MPR covered the new primary rules about registering for a party to be able to vote. Having been away for the last 15 years, and voting with other guys from other states, I liked the freedom in MN to vote for who I wanted, and thought it odd that other states made people register by party.

I'd like to see 2 exceptions for that rule:

1. for 'in person' registration, in case, for us 'swing voters,' a candidate I like comes along and makes me want to jump parties. It's making extra work for my, to re-register, and the county auditor to change me in their system.

2. allow absentee voting to vote for either party, as it's hard enough to vote absentee, much less to ensure you're registered for the right party, especially if the previous issue happens. I'm someone is fighting in Syria, he's only minimally aware of the voting deadlines back home, much less changing party affiliations, if that were to be something that they wanted to pursue.

Sgt VonBargen
Squadron Maintenance Management Chief
612-713-4816
MWSS-471
Minneapolis, MN



I want to notify you that there must be a public hearing on these proposed rule.

As these rules stand they force independent voters further out of the political process.

I thought your office is supposed to increase participation.

Please notify me if the hearing will occur.

Thanks,

RUSS

 

 

Mr. Black,

I wish to register my opposition to Proposed Rule 8215.0300 Subp. 2-4, relating to the recording of political party affiliation as part of the voting process for the 2020 presidential election and beyond.

This Rule may endanger the privacy of Minnesota citizens by revealing, to the public, information that reveals by inference a Minnesota citizen's political opinions. Such information, if made public, may cause significant harm to Minnesota citizens. For this reason, I believe that the Proposed Rule is contrary to the public interest and should not be adopted.

If collected, the State of Minnesota should classify and treat data relating to political preferences and opinions as "Confidential Data on Individuals" as defined in Minnesota Statute §13.01 Subd. 3.C.


Respectfully,

Adam Stone
Minnesota Resident

 

 

Mr. Secretary and My Elected Representatives,

I would like to formally register complaint and comments on the new legislation to be implemented for presidential primary elections. I find the new law requiring an oath to the principles of a party to be a deterrent in the election process. I believe it is counter to the mission of direct democracy, and I potentially unconstitutional in its procedure. To pass this without review would be a miscarriage of government, given this procedure is at the heart of the American civic system.

Political party are private groups who gather as a coalition to achieve government. They are not a function of the state as written in the constitution. To enforce membership, even in statement of support alone, means independent voters are not only disfranchised but actively discriminated against in the election process. To counter this the argument, Political parties state it is party business to determine their candidates, and members only should decide. For this I do agree - but in that case a private organization is using public funds to conduct their business. I question the legality of this. So if my money is being used to run an election I expect to participate.

If the parties believe this to be an appropriate process, then please provide a refund mechanism for independent voters who are turned away from participating.

I do expect follow up and will welcome discussion on this. I believe a proper legislative hearing a necessary action.

 

--

AJ Lee

St Paul, MN
55102 USA
ajlee@mtu.edu
+1 763 710 1758

 

 

I strenuously object to having to declare that I agree with the views of the party for whom I want to vote for President. It’s none of your business if I am voting for a party platform or a particular candidate. I have lived in other states that utilize primary voting, and never have I had to declare allegiance to a party of philosophy.

I am willing to prove that I am who I say I am, to have my voter registration verified, but the act of actually voting for a certain candidate in this Country is secret and sacred.


Catherine L. Rausch
4521 South Mallard Trail
Eagan, MN 55122

 

 

 

I strongly object to this proposed change in election law. I assume the law is attempting to target anyone who votes in the primary of another party for the purpose of choosing a more unelectable candidate (which I doubt happens all that often). However, the voting booth is supposed to be private. It’s not the business of the rest of the world what party I identify with! I have always been proud of Minnesota in that they don’t require a voter to choose a party affiliation - or to vote a straight party ticket.

In the last presidential election, there was a candidate from what is not my chosen party whom I may have voted for if he had been nominated. That did not mean that I supported that party’s overall platform.

In addition to an unnecessary intrusion on our privacy, this law would just make voting even more cumbersome, and make politics even more tribal.

Carol Turnbull
Woodbury, MN

 

 

 

 Erik Larson
700 S 2nd St Apt 31
Minneapolis MN 55401
Tel. 612-338-1563
Email: larsone@macalester.edu


May 21, 2018


Bert Black
Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State
180 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd
Saint Paul MN 55155
Email: bert.black@state.mn.us


Re: Proposed Permanent Rules Relating to Elections Administration and the Presidential Nomination Primary

I write both (a) to request a public hearing for the above referenced rules and (b) to submit objections to the proposed rules. The proposed rules would move Minnesota from a caucus system to a primary system for voters to express preferences among potential Presidential nominees. By moving from a party-organized to a state-organized system for expressing such preferences, the Office of the Secretary of State needs to apply a higher level of scrutiny to the proposed rules. Two provisions of the rules—the requirement that primary voters indicate agreement with the principles of the party of the candidate that they support and the provision that makes individual voters’ selection of party public information—introduce problems that could deter individuals from voting and may undermine the integrity of elections. Additionally, these provisions violate the Minnesota constitution and divert public resources to subsidize major political party activities. Even if these concerns were set aside, the analysis that supports these objections points out gaps in the rules as currently drafted. The Office of the Secretary of State would need to address these gaps in any final rule.

Prior to discussing specific objections to the proposed rules, it is important to note a characteristic of the rules.

The proposed rules entangle the State of Minnesota into the affairs of political parties, which requires the Office of the Secretary of State to subject the rules to increased scrutiny.

By moving from a caucus-based system organized by political parties to a primary election system organized by the State of Minnesota, the proposed rules increase governmental involvement in the selection of Presidential candidates. Such greater public involvement in the candidate selection process requires the Secretary of State to subject the proposed rules to a higher level of scrutiny than would be required for a caucus system. Such scrutiny requires the Office of the Secretary of State to go beyond the statutory language directing the development of the proposed rules in order to evaluate the proposed rules with the broader purposes of the Office of the Secretary of State. The proposed rules must not interfere with individuals’ right to vote and must not undermine the integrity of Minnesota’s electoral system without an overwhelming public benefit. Notwithstanding the legislative action that directed the Office of the Secretary of State to develop the proposed rules, the Office must uphold the higher and foundational principles of protecting citizens’ voting rights and the integrity of electoral processes.

As the other points in this submission indicate, the proposed rules fail the tests of no tinterfering with voting rights, not compromising the integrity of electoral processes, andof promoting public interests; therefore, the proposed rules must not be adopted as written.

The provisions in proposed rules 8215.03-8215.05 have the following deficiencies.

1. By requiring that voters affirm their agreement with party principles, the proposed rules compromise the integrity of elections by either disenfranchising voters or by violating the neutrality of polling places.

The proposed rules require voters to affirm general agreement with “the principles of the party” of the candidate for whom they wish to cast a primary ballot. Requiring voters to make this affirmation before getting a ballot presumes that these principles are known to voters in advance; however, during contested primaries, voters are selecting between two candidates and may not have familiarity with the principles of a party. Any voters who do not know these principles and who seek to vote at a polling place will either have to affirm falsely that they agree with principles that they do not know or disqualify themselves from voting because they cannot affirm something that they do not know.Voters who choose the former route are vulnerable based on their lack of knowledge.Such knowledge-based exclusions from voting recall literacy tests that were used during the Reconstruction era to disenfranchise African-American voters. Voters who honestly state that they do not know the principles and, therefore, cannot affirm their general agreement with such principles will be excluded from voting. The latter outcome, again,disenfranchises some voters who would otherwise participate in the primary election.

A non-disenfranchising alternative would be to display or otherwise have available party principles within the polling place. This alternative, however, would violate prohibitions against having partisan material in polling places.

Either set of outcomes undermines the integrity of elections. As such, the Office of the Secretary of State could and should refuse to implement the portion of the law that requires voters to indicate their agreement with the principles of the party in whose primary they participate.

2. The proposed rules fail to articulate both the consequences of a voter falsely affirming agreement with party principles and the basis for determining what the principles of a political party are.

The proposed rules state that a voter who fails to affirm support of party principles will not be allowed to vote in the primary election. The proposed rules, however, remain silent about what to do in the case of a voter who makes a false affirmation. Although the statutes state that the felony penalty for providing false information when signing a voting roster does not apply to the provision for indicating support of party principles, the proposed rules neither indicate that providing such false information is exempt from the felony penalty nor do they indicate the consequences for providing false information about agreement with party principles. Such a situation leaves local election officials without guidance and could result in different responses in different polling places.Related to this deficiency, the proposed rules do not indicate how one would determine the principles of any political party in the case of a challenge about whether a voter agreed with such principles.

The absence of any consequence to a false affirmation would seem to render the requirement of affirmation moot. Perhaps as a matter of formal law, that may be the case.If so, however, then that provision serves no legal or public purpose and should not be codified into rules.

Even in the absence of a formal consequence, however, the provision may impede voters’exercise of their rights to vote. The provision, as part of law, could be used by people or groups that want to intimidate certain populations in order to suppress their votes. In fact,the silence of the proposed rules on this point facilitates such attempts at suppression. It takes little imagination to move from literature used in previous elections to discourage voter turnout to see how some entities may make factually true statements to depress voter participation. (For example, one can imagine fliers or robocalls declaring something along the lines of: “If you want to vote in the Presidential primary on Tuesday, Minnesota law requires that you support the party’s principles before you get a ballot. The law will also make your choice of party public information. If you do not support these principles or do not know whether you support the principles and you vote in the primary, you will be breaking the law.”)

Notwithstanding the lack of stated consequences for violation of this provision, the proposed rules remain deficient in identifying how to determine what any particular party’s principles are. Perhaps the most obvious source of information would be party platforms. There are, however, two issues. First, the Presidential primary seeks to choose a candidate for a national party; however, the major parties covered by the proposed rule are state parties. National and state parties can (and do) have different platforms, which may give emphasis to different principles (if any principles are listed). Second, using party platforms as a basis for determining who is eligible to vote in a given election,elevates parties’ power in ways that seem contrary to the purpose of a public election. As above, if one cannot fathom that there might be a challenge to individuals voting in a particular party’s Presidential primary, then this provision has no purpose in the law and,as such, the final rules could remove any reference that requires voters support the principles of the party of the candidate for whom they wish to vote.

3. The proposed rules undermine citizens’ interests in using their vote as an expression of their political views.

Intra-party electoral contests are not simply questions about the personal qualities of competing candidates. Rather, these primary elections frequently concern policy priorities and debate about what principles a party should espouse. To hold otherwise renders party principles and values as static, a view that history forcefully contradicts. During Reconstruction, the two largest political parties in the United States approached issues of civil rights, states’ autonomy, and race in manners radically different than in more recent times. Similarly, the rise of evangelical Christians as a political force coincided with a shift in the values emphasized by these two largest parties. Candidates challenging conventional party orthodoxy from inside of a party can be a potent force for political change and engagement—indeed, in many ways these candidates have been one of the main avenues of such change, as exemplified by the conservative movement of Barry Goldwater and the so-called Reagan Revolution in the Republican Party. Yet, the proposed rules undermine the ability of voters to use their vote as a voice in these political debates, requiring adherence to pre-existing principles, not to the principles advanced by the candidate for whom they are voting.

The timing of the Presidential primary election (in early March) makes this harm all the more apparent. Parties will still have caucuses prior to the primary but will not have state and national conventions finalizing platform changes until months after the primary. That situation means that any substantial attempt to alter a party’s priorities will still be in process, leading to a particularly fraught situation in the case of challenges to primary voters. It is not a substantial stretch to imagine widespread challenges to primary voters’ participation in the case of an insurgent candidate within a major party.

4. The proposed rules violate the uniform oath provision for voting of the Minnesota Constitution.

Article 7, Section 3 of the Minnesota Constitution states that “The legislature shall provide for a uniform oath or affirmation to be administered at elections and no person shall be compelled to take any other or different form of oath to entitle him to vote.” By requiring voters to affirm agreement with particular parties’ principles, the proposed rules modify this oath for the Presidential primary election. On their face, the proposed rules indicate that the Presidential primary election would be treated differently than other elections. Additionally, by requiring voters to consent to the State of Minnesota publicly releasing information about the party’s ballot they used in a primary, the proposed rules compel people to take an additional action to be entitled to vote. Finally, by deferring to the principles determined by different political parties to determine eligibility to vote in a particular party’s primary, the oath that voters must make would differ in substantive content between voters in different parties. This final point is not refuted by the claim that each party’s primary election is a separate election, because any voter may only vote for one candidate in one party in any given year.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Statement of Need and Reasonableness refers to the agreement with party principles as an oath: “Although the proposed rule provides a structure to ensure that the statutorily required acts of a voter selecting a ballot choice, reading the oath, and recording the choice on the roster, occur, the proposed rule leaves key flexibility with respect to how the voter indicates her or his ballot choice” (27).

5. The proposed rules violate the sanctity of a secret ballot in ways that impose costs on and that could imperil the safety of voters.

By requiring that voters agree to make public their selection of political party, the proposed rules chill political participation and increase the risk of employment discrimination and threats to public safety. Each of these negative consequences is a significant public concern that outweighs the lack of a public benefit from these particular provisions of the proposed rules.

As currently configured, voting in primary and general elections provides individuals with absolutely secret ballots: nobody has an ability to know how an individual voted in a particular election—whether knowing for whom a person voted or for whom one did not vote. By requiring disclosure of party affiliation, other people will be able to ascertain, at the very least, people for whom an individual did not vote. Furthermore, when political parties are sharply divided on issues—to cite an example from a recent election, questions on whether marriage should be limited to only unions between one man and one woman or whether it should be open to any two consenting adults—the choice of party in a Presidential primary may indicate information about a particular individual’s political beliefs. The public disclosure of a voter’s party identification may deter some individuals from voting at all. Such individuals may include employees fearful of employer retaliation, intimate partners fearful of domestic violence, or persons fearful that financial support from parents or other family members may be cut off.

Those who choose to participate despite such fears deriving from domestic or workrelated power imbalances could face negative consequences. People who have violent intimate partners may be at risk of further violence if their partner discovers the party that they support. Although the Safe at Home program administered by the Secretary of State’s office seeks to protect victims of intimate partner violence, that program only protects the addresses for those residing outside of a home and would not protect those who reside with the abusive partner from having their party selection disclosed. Similarly, young adults who reside with or are economically dependent on parents might be at risk from freely expressing their views in party choice. This risk could be heightened for LGBT individuals, particularly if they are not out with family members whose political position on LGBT issues differs substantially.

Employers could also access party affiliations of employees. In recent years, some supporters of organizations involved in the debate about marriage equality kept their identities private out of fear that employers might take action against them for their position on this issue. In the future, we might see similar inter-party schisms and associated concerns emerge about peoples’ beliefs about immigration policies (on all sides of that issue). While any employment-related consequences due to party affiliation are formally prohibited under law, employees bringing such cases typically face an uphill battle. Employees may be unaware of the motivation for employers’ or supervisors’ actions and may have difficulty proving impermissible motives. In addition, they must bear the costs of any negative consequences prior to and while pursuing any relief.

In short, making political party selection public information provides another means by which people in less powerful positions are further disempowered, and by which people in more powerful positions in social relations can monitor and act against individuals in less powerful positions.

6. The proposed rules use State of Minnesota resources to subsidize major political party activities.

The addition of a second state primary election—with separate ballots for each major party—will entail costs that governments in Minnesota will have to take on. Unlike either the current caucus system—through which parties have to gather their own information— or existing primary and general elections—that gather only residential information about voters, the proposed rules provide public information about how a particular voter identifies politically (and how that political identification changes or remains stable over time). As such, the rules will enable more detailed information-gathering about voters.

Political parties will be able to use this information as a means to contact and target voters in ways that they have not been able to do on such a wide scale. Although caucuses allow parties to collect even more information (such as telephone numbers or email addresses), they do so for a much smaller number of individuals and require that parties actually provide the resources to collect, enter, and collate such data. The major parties have, at times, failed to provide such resources, requiring volunteer-run local party units to bear the cost. Rather than devoting their own resources to improving the process for developing their own contact lists, the parties have used the public outcry about long registration lines after the 2016 caucuses to shift this work to the state by inserting a requirement that voters identify a party and that the state make such identification public. As a result, all taxpayers are forced to finance the process by which the major parties get information about who supports them.

In addition, the information will already be organized and accessible via the Office of the Secretary of State. Data entry shifts from party volunteers (who may or may not be welltrained) to civil servants. As such the collection of information about the party choices of Presidential primary voters provides a subsidy to political parties and other organizations. This private purpose for the proposal seems far more important as a motivation for the proposal, particularly given the fact than any public purpose for shifting to a Presidential primary can be gained without requiring voters to indicate support for a particular political party and for making this support public information. The Office of the Secretary of State should not allow public resources of the State of Minnesota and other levels of government to be used for such private purposes, particularly when such use impairs the more fundamental duties of protecting voting rights and election integrity.

As indicated above, the deficiencies in the proposed rules stem from the requirement that Presidential primary voters in Minnesota will have to indicate support for a particular political party and consent to the State of Minnesota making public their selection of political party.

In response to these deficiencies, the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State should declare that it cannot implement the provisions of Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 207, Minnesota Laws 2016, Chapter 162 due to its higher obligations to uphold the principles of its office and requirements of the Minnesota Constitutions.

In doing so, the proposed rules should strike any provision that requires voters to indicate that they agree with the principle of the party in whose primary they wish to vote. In addition, the proposed rules should eliminate provisions that record and make public voters’ choice of party for the Presidential primary.

The alternative—mimicking existing primary election provisions in which voters may vote within one party only—will be less costly, will be less confusing for voters (who would face different procedures in Presidential and other primaries), and will better uphold the principles on which Minnesota election procedures must be built. If the Office of the Secretary of State determines that it should not or cannot follow the course of action suggested in the preceding paragraphs, it must develop specific responses to the gaps in the rules identified above. Namely: How voters will be given information about the principles of parties;

  • What election officials should do if they encounter a claim that a particular voter does not support a party’s principles;
  • What will happen to voters who falsely indicate their support of a party’s principles;
  • How to protect those voters who are vulnerable to harm from their choice of party being made public; and
  • What additional provisions should be made for appropriate uses of voters’ party selection in any public information request.

I thank the staff of the Office of the Secretary of State for its attention to this matter and service to the State of Minnesota.

Sincerely, Erik Larson