Editorial roundup: Primary election rules favor the parties, not the voters

Published 7:55 pm Monday, December 2, 2019

The most treasured thing in a democracy may very well be going away with the upcoming March 2020 presidential primary in Minnesota: a voter’s privacy.

Voters will have to select a party ballot before voting and, unlike eight other states, cannot select “independent.” You will have to select either a Republican, DFL or one of two pro-marijuana party ballots.

And not only will your friendly election judge now know how you stand or lean politically, the political party operatives will get the valuable voter lists as well. But the public at large or journalists will not be able to see what party voters chose.

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The political party leaders also get to decide who will be on the primary ballot. Not anyone can file, as is the case in a normal primary. The Minnesota GOP has listed only President Donald Trump on the ballot. The DFL has not yet completed its list.

Voters in eight states, including Indiana, Illinois and Colorado, allow “independents” to vote in primaries without requiring they declare a party affiliation. But not so in Minnesota, a state with arguably more independents than many.

Remember Ross Perot? In Minnesota, he received nearly 24 percent of the 1992 vote. And of course, Minnesota also elected independent candidate Jesse Ventura as its governor.

Of course, it’s no surprise that the folks who wrote the rules for the 2020 presidential primary, the DFL and GOP, had a vested interest in getting those valuable voting lists even if voter privacy was the price to pay.

When the primary law was passed in 2016, it listed the voters’ party affiliation as a public record for anyone to see. A 2019 amendment to the law restricted the information only to the major parties participating in the primary.

Secretary of State Steve Simon wanted to make all the party affiliation records private, but apparently the Legislature relented to the will of the parties, according to a report in MinnPost. The parties argued they needed the lists to police the process and see if there were any shenanigans by operatives of other parties to skew the vote.

The primary is also different in that it will be used by the parties to allocate delegates to the national convention. It is not for the purpose of putting the winner on the state ballot.

It’s unfair to give only political parties what arguably could be considered a public record, as is information on whether a person voted at all.

And political parties seem to be getting all the benefit while the taxpayers get a nearly $12 million bill.

Simon says he’s going to scrape together funding for an information campaign that will let voters know their party affiliation information will be seen by party operatives, who have somewhat of a free rein on how they use those voting lists.

The knowledge that their information will be given to political parties may discourage some voters from participating in the primary, one that could be considered one of the most significant in the state’s history.

That’s too bad. Voting should be a private event. Democracy is corrupted when politicians know how you voted.

— Mankato Free Press


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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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