Minnesota voter privacy bill unveiled as presidential primaries quickly approach

In St. Paul Wednesday, a bill to protect voter privacy was announced by Secretary of State Steve Simon.

"Our legislation will ensure confidence in our election system and will shore up privacy for Minnesota voters," said Simon.

His concern, however, is when voters choose a ballot to vote in the presidential primary, all four major political parties in the state, the DFL Party, the Republican Party, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and Legal Marijuana Now Party, will get a record of that, and right now there are no restrictions on how parties can use that information.

"They could sell it, they could give it to a vendor, they could give it to a friend group, they could post it online if they wanted to, so that needs to change because that is just too big of a risk for too many people," said Simon.

The bill already has bipartisan support.

"I am going to do all I can to get this law signed by the governor before election day so people can feel confident in Minnesota still, you can keep your preference to yourself," said State Sen. Jim Abeler (R-35).

Minnesota lawmakers scramble to address voter privacy ahead of Super Tuesday

Nationally, the early primary vote has come with criticism in the process in Iowa, leading to some skepticism.

"We’re going to do better than Iowa, we’re not going to wait 24 or 36 hours, we will have it just like we have it for our elections now," said DFL State Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-45).

Lawmakers said they want the public to trust the operation, and part of building that trust is protecting privacy.

"The deadline to get a bill done is the end of session because it’s 10 weeks after March 3rd that counties have to aggregate and report all of this data, so there is plenty of time to get this done, we should do it, and the time is now to do it," Simon said.

The bill would restrict sharing party preference data, only national party representatives would have access to it for verification purposes.

Because party data would be considered private there would be consequences for disseminating information to the public.

The bill would also create an opt-out option for the public to be excluded from any list. Minnesotans will vote in the presidential primary on Super Tuesday, March 3, but early voting is already underway. The legislative session starts Feb. 11.