Archbishop Bernard Hebda urged clergy in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to “abstain from voting” in Minnesota’s March 3 presidential primary.
Hebda said in a letter sent to deacons and priests this week that the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, recommended the policy.
“Minnesota’s presidential primary is a ‘closed’ party nominating primary meaning it is open only to people who align with the party. One has to attest that one agrees with a party’s principles to vote in the party primary. That information (though not one’s voting choice) is given to the head of each of the major political parties (four total), and though it is considered private data by the State, nothing prevents party affiliation from being made public,” Hebda states in his letter. “This system prevents crossover voting and protects the integrity of the primary.”
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.
House Democrats have introduced a bill that would change the state’s primary law and restrict party access to voter data, but the bill might not be passed in time or receive support from the Republican-controlled Senate.
Republicans have accused DFL leaders of wanting to change the law only because the state’s two cannabis parties could use the data to siphon off voters from Democrats, The Minnesota Sun reported.
“Anyway, it could be seen as ‘partisan’ political activity to align oneself with a party and to vote in its primary, which the Church generally discourages clergy from doing for evangelical reasons, more so than tax ones,” Hebda writes in his letter.
He said that while there is no tax prohibition on clergy voting in primaries, the possibility that the data “may become public should discourage clergy from participating.”
“If the law were different and protected privacy, maybe the calculus would change,” he concludes his letter. “But it is the opinion of the MCC that discouraging primary voting during this cycle (though not in the general election) is the prudent thing to do.”
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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 “Archbishop Bernard Hedba” by Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit.