The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court order for Secretary of State Steve Simon to turn over information on voters he has refused to give to a group that insists it may show evidence of voter fraud.
Simon has insisted that the data Andrew Cilek and the Minnesota Voter Alliance want is beyond that which is considered public information. Currently, names, phone numbers, and voter history are among those items available to the public. But Cilek wants all the voter data, including that not normally available to the public.
But the Court of Appeals on Monday said it’s public data unless specifically withheld by statute — specific date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, for example.
The secretary of state would not release “data on voter status (active, inactive, deleted, challenged), reason for a challenge (felon, address, etc.), or registration, status and voting history information on every Minnesota voter . . . active, inactive or deleted,” the court said.
“It is undisputed that the MVA sought the data for political activities, a permissible purpose,” Judge Rene Worke wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel (see ruling).
The secretary of state argues that the ‘may’ language in the statute affords discretion to disclose this ‘other information,’ and that therefore it is not public data.
We are not persuaded. If the secretary of state has unfettered discretion to disclose the contested data, which we need not decide, it would be nonsensical to conclude that the legislature has classified that data on individuals as private or confidential data.
The judge said Simon is not empowered to determine what public data may be disclosed; that’s the Legislature’s job.
“Most would agree that if one wanted to seriously identify all the voter fraud in Minnesota, the best place to start might be with a list of persons whose active status was changed to an ineligible status,” Cilek said when announcing his suit against Simon in 2017.
[update 1:38 p.m.] – Secretary of State Simon says the case will likely go to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
“I trust law enforcement and county attorneys who investigate and prosecute the few actual cases of ineligible voting in Minnesota,” he said in a press release. “And I also take seriously my duty to protect the voting rights of Minnesotans by standing firm against those who call into question or seek to suppress the votes of thousands of eligible voters.”