MN Secretary of State Stonewalls Court-Ordered Release of Voter Data

Secretary of State Steve Simon claims to be all about protecting the integrity of Minnesota’s elections. He says so on his official website.

Minnesota is committed to protecting and strengthening the security and fairness of our elections process.

So why does Simon, a Democrat, continue to stonewall a court order directing him to turn over state voting information to a group committed to doing just that?

The Minnesota Court of Appeals just upheld a lower court ruling that voter data being sought by the Minnesota Voters Alliance is indeed public information. But rather than comply, Simon appears inclined to prolong a new two-year court battle to prevent Minnesotans from having access to information that could help determine the extent of potential voter fraud in the state.

The appeals court could find no reason to withhold the data from MVA, according to the Star Tribune.

The Voters Alliance has been seeking access to data from the statewide voter registration system, which includes voters’ names, addresses, phone numbers, birth years and voting history, as well as information about the types of ballots they cast and whether they were challenged. Simon countered that he would turn over much of the basic voter information but not the records on ballots and challenges to voters’ status.

Monday’s decision affirms a Ramsey County District Court ruling last year that the information contained within roughly 5.4 million individual voter records is public. That order, issued by District Judge Jennifer Frisch, was put on hold while Simon appealed the decision.

Simon insists it should be up to him as Minnesota’s top election office to decide what voter information should be seen by the public. But the appellate judges roundly rejected his latest attempt to block greater transparency in Minnesota’s electoral process.

…Writing for the court, Judge Renee Worke concluded that the Voters Alliance pursuit of the records for “political activities” is a permissible purpose.

“We are not persuaded,” Worke wrote of Simon’s claimed discretion. “If the secretary of state has unfettered discretion to disclose the contested data, which we need not decide, it would be nonsensical to conclude that the legislature has classified that data on individuals as private or confidential data.”

MVA wants to drill down into the data to determine how often ineligible voting occurs in Minnesota.

“This is a victory basically for the election system,” [MVA attorney Erick] Kaardal said of Monday’s court ruling. “The public wants to have information … so we know what’s going on with the voting system so we can make it better.”

Minnesota’s top election official already has two strikes against him in the case, but evidently still plans to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

But the Voters Alliance, which persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a Minnesota election law banning political messages on clothing at the polls last year, appears positioned to receive the public information in time for the 2020 election, if the state supreme court upholds the previous lower court rulings.