The large body of evidence indicating potential ineligible voting in Minnesota is underreported, underanalyzed, underplayed and underappreciated. A recent court ruling may lead to it being unequivocally understood.

On April 15, a panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that election records in the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) are public data and must be released by Secretary of State Steve Simon, specifically to the Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA).

During the course of the MVA lawsuit, the Office of the Secretary of State was presented with official government records indicating that ineligible felons have voted and that the addresses of thousands of voters could not be verified after they registered on Election Day. During legislative hearings, the secretary has been made aware of the thousands of individuals who register to vote using the last four digits of Social Security numbers yet fail to be found when checked by the Social Security Administration. Through all of this, Mr. Simon has registered not one note of disagreement with the data, nor has he taken one step to address the concerns they raise.

It would be surprising if the CEO of a food company were not on constant alert for spoiled product. Yet the chief election official in the state does no inspection for ineligible voting in the election database under his control. It would be shocking if that same CEO ignored reports from his own inspectors that there were bad apples in the warehouse. But the secretary ignores specific data from the database itself pointing to significant amounts of ineligibility.

It would be criminal, however, if the CEO insisted on keeping the truth from customers and inflicting the rotten goods on them. And yet Simon goes to extraordinary legal pains to hide public election data on eligibility.

Those legal pains include putting a huge amount of taxpayer dollars at risk, similarly to the MVA legal costs the state has been ordered to pay following the secretary's unsuccessful attempt at limiting free speech in polling places on Election Day. As a consequence of his 7-2 defeat in Minnesota Voters Alliance vs. Mansky at the U.S. Supreme Court, his office is now asking the Legislature for an additional $1.29 million to pay the MVA's attorney fees in that case.

Given Simon's failure of duty to protect the integrity and credibility of our elections, it is critical for the public to have access to all of the public election data.

Let's be clear about something many may not be aware of. If you are a registered voter with an "active" status, the state freely distributes your voter ID, name, year of birth, address, phone number (if you have provided it) and a complete history of when you registered and which elections you have voted in, along with the method of voting (in person, absentee, mail-in) you used. Of course, whom you voted for is never recorded or disclosed.

Simon, however, as four judges have now told him, is acting contrary to the law by withholding that same information on millions of voters whose status is "inactive" and by not identifying the voter statuses of each voter, including "challenged" for those who have failed an eligibility test. As a result, the public cannot, for example, even check if the number of voters in the election database agrees with the official count of voters in any election.

Note that under state law, no person can be turned away from voting if they simply swear that they are eligible. Thus, no one can be "suppressed" from voting. The real suppression of votes is carried out by Simon's determination to permit those who do not have the right to vote to do so without consequence: Each ineligible voter nullifies the vote of an eligible voter just as surely as if the eligible person had been turned away from the polling place.

The secretary says he will appeal the recent decision. Well, here's an appeal to him from Minnesotans: Do your job, examine the evidence, identify ineligible voters and get on the right side of this issue by working with advocates of election integrity instead of against.

Andy Cilek is executive director of the Minnesota Voters Alliance.