MN Secretary of State Fights Court Order to Release Voter Data
What’s Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon so afraid of? The best way for Simon to back up the DFL’s denial of voter fraud in Minnesota would be to comply with a Ramsey County Judge Jennifer Frisch’s order to release a complete copy of the data on the state’s voter rolls.
But the Star Tribune reports Simon immediately filed an appeal to withhold the information the court ruled belongs to all Minnesotans.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has 10 days to provide voter information to the Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA), a Ramsey County judge ruled Friday in the year-old dispute over access to the state’s voter rolls.
Simon’s office immediately announced that he would file a motion to put the order on hold pending his appeal. “Secretary Simon will continue to use all available legal tools to protect the private information of Minnesota’s voters,” the statement said.
Simon has long cherrypicked which records to release, stonewalling requests from the Minnesota Voters Alliance, a group focused on exposing voter fraud across the state. MVA wants to analyze the data from more than 5 million voter records kept by the state.
Andy Cilek, executive director of the MVA, called the decision “game changing.” He faulted Simon for turning a “blind eye to ineligible voting” and hiding the data that proves it.
In January 2017, the MVA formally asked Simon for access to an electronic copy of data in the statewide voter registration system, including voter identification number, name, address, phone number, year of birth, voting history, type of ballot (absentee or in person), voter status (active, inactive, deleted, challenger), reason for challenge and all other information.
In August 2017, Simon told the group it was entitled only to the name, address, year of birth, history, district and telephone number. He told the group the information about the type of ballot, status and challenges wasn’t public.
I wouldn’t bet on Simon prevailing in his appeal. MVA has a habit of winning court cases that matter. Most recently, the group prevailed in a widely covered case before the US Supreme Court challenging Minnesota’s law on prohibiting certain clothing at the polls.
In this matter, the secretary of state asserted he had discretion to choose which data to disclose. Frisch disagreed, saying nothing in the law says the voter information isn’t public. Furthermore, she noted that the information sought by MVA has “historically been distributed to the public and others.” She said county auditors “routinely produce the very same data” in response to formal requests.
In support of the court’s position, the judge also pointed to two advisory opinions previously issued by the state’s Information Policy Analysis Division. An opinion from 2012 confirmed that data on voter status is “presumptively public.”
MVA attorney Erick Kaardal said, “It is lamentable that citizen groups have had to pursue a long and expensive court battle to arrive at today’s ruling.”
We know voter fraud exists in Minnesota, but is it widespread? We may never know unless this data that belongs to the public becomes public.