As we get closer to the March 3 presidential primary, constituents have contacted my office with concerns about voter privacy.

I would like to dispel some of those concerns by explaining the history of this particular law, detailing the voting process and explaining some of the laws that passed in 2019 which would allow voter data to be shared with the parties in a more private manner.

In 2016, the DFL-led legislature decided to switch from the party caucus system because of record turnout. Of course, the number of people participating was encouraging, but it resulted in a multitude of complaints about the unwieldiness of the system and the unpleasantly long wait times to participate in basic democracy.

Voter data was collected at caucuses for years, but a presidential primary system was thought to be more inclusive by the DFL, which passed a bill that allowed primary data to remain public information.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law.

In 2019, Senate Republicans decided to tighten the laws and passed legislation to make the collected data less public. Any breach of confidentiality is illegal. The DFL-led House of Representatives passed the bill, and Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law. 

The presidential primaries are only utilized by the major parties. Registered voters can cast ballots at their polling place on the presidential primary day or by absentee ballot a little over a month before.

A political party must be selected on the ballot to vote in the primary; party ballet choice and name is the only information given to party chairs as an organizational tool.

The voter’s candidate choice is completely private, and party choice is by no means binding for the primary or general elections, except for delegates attending their corresponding national convention.

I hope this explanation is helpful.

This is the first year we will be testing the new voting system, so we in the legislature will be paying close attention to its effects.

We are working on legislation to further protect voter personal data, but be reassured there have been no reports of privacy breaches in the 42 states that have these same practices.

For more information, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s presidential primary Web page at www.sos.state.mn.us.

– Gary Dahms serves District 16 in the Minnesota State Senate.