Primary turnout was good, but we can make it better with privacy
Minnesota voters participated in a presidential primary for the first time in more than a quarter century. So, how did Minnesotans show at the polls?
Better than caucus straw polls in 2016 — when both Democrats and Republicans had multiple candidates on the ballot.
Just over 885,000 voters showed up Tuesday (March 3) in Minnesota to vote in the presidential primary, almost 745,000 Democrats and around 140,000 Republicans. (The Republicans get a pass on turnout this time, as President Donald Trump was the only name on the ballot.)
That’s a 175% increase in participants compared to roughly 321,000 voters in the 2016 caucus straw polls.
What can be gleaned from this increase? Perhaps more people are motivated to participate in the voting process. Perhaps it’s a sign of the breakneck speed at which most of us live our lives — voting is less time-consuming than a caucus. Or maybe it’s because the caucus system in Minnesota can be intimidating for first-timers.
Regardless, we can glean from the primary turnout numbers that Minnesotans appreciated the chance to take part in the primary.
So what can we do in 2024 to improve?
That’s easy: ensure privacy for every voter in our state primary.
Your vote in the primary was secret, as always, but your party affiliation could be shared with leaders of our state’s major political parties. Other than a ban on commercial use, there are no restrictions on what those party leaders can do with that data, including publish it.
Legislators still have time to fix this. They can and should pass legislation that will keep voters’ party affiliation private before the scheduled data release in May.
Business owners, journalists, priests and public servants from police officers to department heads know that their party affiliation could become public, and that could lead to trouble down the road as the political winds change. Once, trust in party officials to do the right thing wasn’t such a leap to make, but in this stage of American life, encoding voter privacy safeguards in the law seems like a no-brainer.
Perhaps we will see an even better primary turnout when we know our political preferences are kept private, as they should be to guard against retaliation in the workplace or elsewhere.
And if our legislators don’t make the change in time to protect primary voters? Well, that’s something to remember when they ask for your vote in November.
— St. Cloud Times