Accusations Fly in Fight Over Voter Data from Minnesota Primary


State party leaders exchanged a number of accusations throughout the week regarding the release of voter data under Minnesota’s presidential primary law.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party said it supports an effort led by Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, to allow voters to opt-out of the collection of party affiliation data when casting their ballots in the primary. Republicans, however, said the DFL is “changing the rules in the middle of the game” because it is “frightened” by Minnesota’s “two new major parties receiving data that would siphon off votes from the DFL.”

As The Minnesota Sun reported, Minnesota’s four major political parties will be provided with data showing which party each voter chose during the primary election. The data won’t reveal a voter’s candidate selection, but there are currently no limitations on how a party can use the data.

Both the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party were granted major-party status after the 2018 midterms because they both earned more than five percent in at least one statewide race.

DFL Chairman Ken Martin called a press conference at the Minnesota Capitol Thursday to announce support for an amendment to Minnesota’s presidential primary law. In addition to introducing an opt-out option, Martin believes the amendment should stipulate that only a national party representative can receive party affiliation data, which should be used solely for confirming the validity of the primary.


“Here in Minnesota, we do not require voters to register with a particular political party, and we share the concerns of the Minnesotans who feel that widespread access to the party affiliation data collected during the primary is both a violation of their privacy and will act as a de facto party registration system,” said Martin.

Becky Alery, a communications director for the Minnesota Republican Party, said that when Martin “thought the data was only going to the DFL and Minnesota GOP, he was okay with it.”

“Now that he knows the other two major parties will get it and could siphon off votes is the only reason he is pushing for this change,” she said.

Martin seemed to support the idea of party affiliation lists in a June interview with MinnPost.

Now, however, he is saying that the DFL is going to “let everyone know” that the Minnesota Republican Party “has no interest in protecting the privacy of voter data.” Alery pointed out that the 2016 law converting Minnesota from a caucus to a primary system was passed under Gov. Mark Dayton with bi-partisan support.

“It is disappointing that the Minnesota DFL has chosen to start 2020 with scare tactics and misinformation to suppress voters,” said Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan. “They will stop at nothing to control and manufacture a crisis in the name of their ultimate goal: defeat our President.”

In a statement released Thursday, Martin said he was “extremely disappointed that Jennifer Carnahan and the Minnesota Republican Party have decided to put their partisan interests ahead of the privacy of Minnesota voters.”

“Additionally, Jennifer Carnahan accused the DFL of attempting to change the rules of the primary, which is completely false,” Martin added. “We simply want to protect the data of Minnesota voters after the primary takes place. Chairwoman Carnahan has had ample opportunity to suggest alternatives to protecting voter privacy, yet instead of doing so, she chose to lob partisan bombs that completely and willfully misrepresent the DFL’s position and cast aspersions on the concerns of Minnesota voters. We hope that lawmakers from both parties will see through these partisan attacks and act to protect the privacy of voters everywhere.”

The Minnesota Republican Party said in a statement released on Twitter that none of the more than 40 states “that provide partisan primary data as a standard voter file has ever been accused of misusing voter data.”

“Voting is one of the greatest rights and civic duties we are afforded by living in the U.S.,” said the statement. “Yet, the Minnesota DFL is actively working to dissuade Minnesotans from participating in the March 3 presidential primary, for which voting is already open.”

Early absentee voting began January 17 in Minnesota but the votes won’t be counted until after the polls close on March 3, so the Legislature could impose some restrictions on the use of voter data before the lists are released.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ken Martin” by Ken Martin. Background Photo “Ken Martin Press Conference” by Minnesota DFL Party. 







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