Sec. Simon announces proposals to protect voter privacy for 2020 presidential primary

Legislative action also required to curtail high cost of presidential primary to local governments

Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State

 

Secretary of State Steve Simon announced his proposal to protect voter privacy for the 2020 presidential nomination primary. Passed in 2016 by the Legislature in close coordination with the national Republican and Democratic parties, the Presidential Primary Law requires separate ballots for each political party, requires that all voters disclose to election officials the party ballot that they choose, and makes that data public record.

“There is no good reason to require public disclosure of voters’ party preferences,” Simon said. “Minnesota’s voter registration system has never required a voter to state a party affiliation, yet the Legislature created a back-door system of party registration when they passed the Presidential Primary Law. Minnesota does not need to change a system that has worked so well for us for so many years.”

In addition to passing a law that will force Minnesotans to declare a party preference at the polling place, the Presidential Primary Law neglects to account for all of the increased costs to local and municipal taxpayers of funding a third statewide contest in a single calendar year. Traditionally, the cost of putting on presidential caucuses was borne by the individual political parties. The new Presidential Nomination Primary Law, which currently requires local governments to operate polling places in the same manner as traditional primary and general election contests, provides for reimbursement for some of the expenses but fails to account for all of the costs associated with the administration of the presidential primary.

“The problems we anticipate with the 2020 presidential nomination primary can be solved by the Legislature if they act fast,” Simon said. “I stand ready to work with members of both parties on behalf of the people of Minnesota to reduce the cost and burden to local governments. We have the best elections system in the country and I don’t believe that any member of either party wants to bear the responsibility for failing to defend our democracy.”

One potential solution for the privacy and cost issues associated with the 2020 presidential nomination primary is to conduct the primary through mail balloting. Under a mail balloting system, which is supported by counties and municipalities throughout Minnesota, every person registered to vote would receive by mail a ballot for the presidential nominating contest. To cast a ballot, voters would then be required to fill out and return their mail ballot by the day determined for the presidential nomination primary. This would be functionally the same as those who chose to vote by absentee ballot  during the 2014, 2016, or 2018 election cycles.

Voting by mail could save millions of dollars in election administration costs, would allow voters to choose their party preference in the privacy of their own home, and has been shown in other states to increase voter participation. While moving the presidential nomination primary to an all-vote-by-mail election would address both privacy and cost issues, Minnesota’ major political parties need to be in agreement regarding major changes to the law. Simon has met with both major parties regarding this proposed solution, and will continue to work with both major parties and the Legislature to reform the presidential nomination primary to protect voter privacy and reduce local government costs.

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