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Presidential primary weakens secret ballot

We’re not sure who thought it was a good idea, but Minnesota law now allows political parties to pull back the voting booth curtain and peek over your shoulder in the new Minnesota presidential primary.

The primary will allow the state’s residents to have a say in who is nominated to represent the political parties in the presidential race without having to attend a precinct caucus. That’s a good idea, because fewer and fewer people are bothering to attend the caucuses, and the Minnesota primaries held in August are much too late to have any impact on the presidential selection.

But this primary will be different from the primaries to which we are accustomed. In the past, everyone got the same ballot, with Democrats listed on one side and Republicans on the other. Voters were instructed to vote for one party’s candidates or the other’s. No crossovers allowed. If you voted in the Republican Senate race, for instance, then crossed over and voted in the Democratic House race, your ballot would be tossed out.

Now, however, election judges will ask you if you want a Democratic ballot or a Republican ballot. In order to get one, you have to sign a statement saying you support the party’s goals and positions. And your personal voter data will be collected and turned over to the Republicans, the Democrats, the Legal Marijuana Now party and the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party. There are no limits on what the parties can do with your information once they get it.

If you go to vote in the presidential primary and say, “None of your beeswax!” when the election judge asks you which party you support, you won’t get to vote.

We’re not sure why the presidential primary law, passed in 2016, was written this way, but it is a bad idea. It violates the great American tradition of the secret ballot. We hope legislators will address this snag in the election law as soon as they convene in February.

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