Primary rule for new 2020 prez primary? Pick a party

A voter takes a sticker after casting his ballot at Bryn Mawr Community School in Minneapolis, MN on November 8, 2016.

Proposed rules for Minnesota’s new presidential primary spell out how voters would have to attest to a party preference and be turned away from the polls if they don’t.

The rules, which DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon laid out in Monday’s State Register, would govern the process for in-person, mail and absentee balloting. The rules will go into effect without a hearing unless 25 or more people register objections prior to June 6.

The Legislature passed a law in 2016 to revive a presidential primary beginning with the 2020 election amid voter frustration surrounding precinct caucuses. In 2016, large crowds overwhelmed caucus sites, with some voters complaining that they felt left out by an antiquated system that requires everyone to show up at a building at the same time.

Most of the proposed rules cover technical details about what the ballots would look like and the involvement of political parties.

Voters who want to cast a ballot in that year’s primaries would have to sign a polling place roster attesting that “I am in general agreement with the principles of the party for whose candidate I intent to vote, and I understand that my choice of a party’s ballot will be public information.”

Minnesota is among the states now where voters don't register by party, making it hard to pinpoint which party has a built-in advantage.

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County auditors would include the information about a voter’s party choice -- though not the candidate whom they voted for -- in the statewide voter registration system. That is a public record that can be obtained by political parties and others.

People who don’t want to sign such an attestation “must not be allowed to sign the polling place roster or cast a ballot,” the proposed rules state.

For voters who request an absentee ballot, there would be a place to indicate a party choice and they would sign the agreement of principles as part of their ballot oath. Voters who decline to do so will not be issued a ballot.

Absentee voters would have until seven days before the primary election to change their choice of party and submit a new application for another party’s ballot.

Under the new law, the date of the 2020 primary will be set in 2019. The major political parties must jointly submit a date for the election by March 1 of next year. If they fail to agree on one date, the first Tuesday in March is the default primary date.