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Thanks to a new Minnesota law, the whole world may know if you vote DFL or GOP


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Do you like the idea of everyone being able to know which party you vote for in a presidential primary?

That’s the way Minnesota law reads now. And yes, that’s new.

And no, not everyone likes the idea.

“We’ve never had party registration in this state, and this looks like a back-door system of party registration,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said Wednesday as he amped up his push to change the state law.

As part of that effort, Simon, Minnesota’s top election official, is pitching the idea of conducting the 2020 presidential primary almost entirely by mail. That would also be new.

This type of election stuff can get surprisingly confusing. Here’s what it’s all about.


We’re only talking about the primary for the president of the United States here — not the August primary elections for state and congressional offices, nor the November general elections.

The presidential primary will take place in February of presidential years. It’s different from the other elections in that it only guides Minnesota delegates in how to vote at national party conventions, where delegates actually determine which presidential candidates will appear on the ballot.

It’s new for Minnesota, and starting in 2020, it would replace those quirky caucuses that Minnesota has had for decades where folks file into school classrooms or other spaces and raise hands, scribble on scraps of paper and argue.

In recent presidential years, there’s been blowback about the caucus system, largely because it forces people to give up several hours on a specific weekday evening in the winter.


In 2016, the Republican-controlled House, Democratic-controlled Senate, and Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, approved a new plan to ditch the caucuses and go with the more-familiar primary: Local governments open up polling places and voters vote. Like regular elections.

However, because presidential primaries aren’t like regular elections, leaders of both the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and Republican Party of Minnesota pushed for the following sentence to be included in what became Minnesota’s Presidential Primary Law: “The list must include the party choice of any voter who voted in the most recent presidential nomination primary.”

That “list” is the list of what becomes public information. And that would be the only instance of any Minnesotan’s party voting affiliation becoming public by law. Name, year of birth, address and some other info has always been public in all forms of voting. But, unlike some states, Minnesota doesn’t disclose — or even know — which candidates or parties a voter favors. (You have to pick a party in the August primaries, but both parties’ candidates are contained on the same ballot, so which party you choose remains as secret as which candidates you choose.)

True, showing up at a party caucus is a public act, and parties require caucus-goers to sign in. But caucuses are entirely run by the parties; the new presidential primary is run by government and paid for by taxpayers.

The notion raised privacy concerns, but both DFL Chairman Ken Martin and then-GOP Chairman Keith Downey said that without making each person’s party preference known, national parties wouldn’t recognize the primary.

So it became law.

Some objected to it in court, as well as another portion that requires voters to take the following oath in order to get a ballot: “I am in general agreement with the principles of the party for whose candidate I intend to vote, and I understand that my choice of a party’s ballot will be public information.”


In August, an administrative law judge declared the law sound.


Simon, a Democrat who was re-elected to secretary of state in November, said he thinks the public requirement should simply be deleted, and he’s shopping the idea around with lawmakers.

It’s unclear how much traction he has. He said several influential lawmakers he’s spoken to have been noncommittal, and Gov.-elect Tim Walz hasn’t weighed in. The Pioneer Press requested Walz’s thoughts Wednesday afternoon but hadn’t received any by deadline.

Simon is also shopping around the idea of conducting the entire presidential primary by mail. No polling places. Just get a ballot of all the parties’ candidates and decide in the privacy of your own home which party you’ll vote for. Return the ballot either by mail or possibly drop it off at local election offices, he said. It would save taxpayers money and insulate local and county governments from having to navigate the logistics of a third full-on election every four years.

Simon said the mail-in idea, which has been undertaken by a number of western states, was brought to him by those local governments.


But even if a vote-by-mail system is adopted and if the public disclosure of which party you picked doesn’t become public, the major political parties still want to know.

“We would oppose any change where the parties don’t get the information,” the DFL’s Martin said Wednesday. “We need that information to comply with national party rules and to help party-building activities.”

Kevin Poindexter, executive director of the state Republican Party, agreed. He said his party doesn’t just want to know which voters pulled Republican ballots, but also who voted Democratic — and who voted for Minnesota’s two new major parties: the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party.

“We think the public has a right to know as well,” Poindexter said. “More transparency is a good thing. But at the end of the day, we need to meet our party requirements, and we want to make sure the entire data set is being shared with all major parties.”

Martin noted that in many states, voters need to formally register a party affiliation to receive primary ballots. In some states, that locks you in to which ballot you’ll receive the next primary you vote in unless you unregister yourself. None of that would happen under Minnesota law. Voters could vote in a Democratic presidential primary one year and the Republican one four years later. Of course, each time, they’d have to sign that oath of “general agreement with the principles of the party.”




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So the claim is that the organized political parties need to know how/who you voted for.

Public information for dunning you with pleas for money or shaming you for being the opposition.  

This sounds like another example of "its no problem, just a foot in the door", which always escalates.

This is a citizen voting, regardless if it is directly for the proposed candidate, or for someone to select that proposed candidate on your behalf, it's still a private citizen vote and as such should remain between the voter and their conscience.

Leave it to politicians to eat away at every basis of citizen freedom of choice and privacy.

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Like most things, it has it’s ups and downs.  For primaries it lets those who identify with one party elect whoever they consider the best candidate, and prevents those of the opposite party from crossing over to try to put in a weak candidate.  And that has happened in the past.  Also, most states handle the primaries that way.  

Just going over the opposite side of the story.  So pick your side and lay down your opinion.  And anyone watching The caucuses will know that soon enough anyway.  


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In Florida, they have required a "party Affiliation" (R, D, Ind, etc.) or "No Party Affiliation" on your registration to vote application since I moved here in the 80s.


That determines which ballot you get in the primary, any primary, not just Presidential Primary  In some states you have to ask for a ballot by party to vote in the primary, which also publicly registers you with a party.  Voter records ARE public records.  It is not that difficult to find out which ballot someone gets in a primary election.  I took an Independent Party ballot in a primary once to vote for 1 person and the rest of the ballot was left blank

Edited by windowasher
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