An Oct. 2 commentary by DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon and state Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia (“We repelled a foreign attack in 2016, but must do much more”) was nothing more than an attempt to cover up the failures of the current secretary of state in protecting Minnesota’s voters.
Failure No. 1: This year, Minnesota was allocated $6.6 million by the federal government to upgrade our election security. Not a penny has been spent, and the authors tried to blame “partisanship” for that failure.
The fact is that Gov. Mark Dayton — a member of the same party as the current secretary of state — vetoed the authorization for the funds. Imagine a secretary of state being so ineffective that his own fellow DFL governor won’t listen to him.
Failure No. 2: The commentary talks about a bill introduced last year that would give the secretary of state’s office additional money to combat “cyber threats.” The authors claim the bill had “broad support from both parties” yet it never made it into law. Why?
Again, the secretary took no leadership on the bill. If it truly is a priority, why couldn’t he get it passed when it had “broad support” in the Legislature?
Failure No. 3: Not only was the secretary of state unable to get good legislation passed, he was asleep at the switch when the Legislature passed a bill concerning the 2020 presidential primary that dramatically alters Minnesota’s tradition of the secret ballot. Most Minnesotans aren’t aware of this, but if they want to participate in the presidential primary, they are going to have to give an oath to the election judge to support their party and they will be given either a Democratic or a Republican ballot, and that choice of party affiliation will now become public information.
Minnesota has never required voters to register their party affiliation. Forcing them to do so in order to take part in the presidential primary is an incredible assault on privacy. Again, the secretary failed to oppose this legislation, meaning he either agrees that voters should be forced to declare their party affiliation, or he wasn’t paying attention when this radical change to our voting laws was passed.
In addition to these failures, the secretary of state has been involved in two high-profile court cases in the past year, and lost them both. First, he lost at the U.S. Supreme Court — by a 7-2 vote — in the case regarding political clothing in voting areas.
More significantly, he lost by summary judgment in Ramsey County court when he refused to release public data on challenged — possibly ineligible — voters. Not only was he ordered to release the data, but the judge called his position “untenable.” He has defied that court order by filing an appeal, and waited to the last possible moment to file the appeal so that no decision will be reached before Election Day.
By any objective measure, the current secretary of state’s tenure has been marked by failure to protect our voting system and the privacy of Minnesota voters. In the name of free, open and honest elections, we need to elect a new secretary of state.
John Howe is the Republican candidate for Minnesota secretary of state.