Senate Republicans pull presidential primary voter privacy bill

Minnesota held its first presidential primary in nearly three decades this week. As the election drew near, current law regarding how voter data would be used in the election raised privacy concerns among voters. In response, the House passed a common-sense voter privacy bill back in February that protects voter’s privacy and was supported by election security advocates.

The Senate Republican bill – which is rife with privacy concerns — was expected to be on the Senate floor this week. In a surprising move, Senate Republicans pulled their Presidential Primary Data Privacy Bill from the agenda just hours before session was scheduled to start.

The current bill falls short of protecting voter privacy in a number of ways. It allows outside entities access to voter data for election and political purposes. The bill does not restrict who may obtain the voter lists, only that they are not allowed to distribute the list any further. Additionally, there are no strings attached for how parties can use voter data for political purposes.

This bill does not provide an opt-out provision for primary voters to keep their ballot choice private, which is a huge concern. It is also silent on campaigns’ ability to use the data for political purposes. Minnesota is jeopardizing its status as one of the nation’s leaders in voter turnout by giving voters reason to stay home for fear that their party preference may be released in some public fashion. 

Voters are also concerned that their party ballot preference data could be used to discredit their professional objectivity or be publicly released by another political party. The Senate Republicans bill just does not go far enough in protecting our data and without changes, it appears Republicans are more concerned about mining voter preference data than in keeping our data private. The Republican Senate should urgently pass a bill that actually protects voters’ ballot selection data before the Secretary of State is forced to send the list within the next six weeks.

In contrast, DFL senators will keep working to improve this bill. We are committed to ensuring voter’s privacy is protected at all costs. (SF 3482)