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Other’s opinion: A Minnesota thumbs up for Biden, primary system

Star Tribune

Minnesota’s Super Tuesday results, which helped catapult former Vice President Joe Biden into the front-runner spot nationally, showed the party was right to forgo its caucus system for a presidential primary.

Some 885,000 Minnesotans turned out to vote in the primary, aided by a lengthy early voting period that allowed many to cast their ballots at their convenience. Compare that with the 318,000 Minnesotans who attended caucuses in 2016, when they had to show up at an appointed hour and place to take part in a process that, let’s face it, not everyone relishes.

With a broader swath of Minnesotans represented, Tuesday’s results showed the hunger for a more moderate, unifying voice. Sanders certainly has a still-sizable, loyal following in Minnesota and elsewhere, and the race will continue to play out in coming months. But it is evident that his message, taken to a broader electorate, did not resonate as it did in 2016. It’s also important to note that Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s withdrawal from the race — and her enthusiastic endorsement of Biden the same day — helped consolidate moderate votes. It also points out the risk in voting too early. The window to change one’s vote had closed some days earlier.

Caucuses, despite being a longtime staple of Minnesota politics, were always exclusionary in nature, particularly for those who work nights or simply shy away from that level of political interaction with neighbors. That doesn’t mean they want to forgo their chance to affect the outcome.

And on that note, we are going to renew our displeasure at the deal struck by major parties in this state that forced loyalty oaths and lack of privacy as the new price to be paid for voting in the presidential primary. Minnesotans seeking to vote this time found they needed to request a specific party’s ballot and sign a loyalty oath to that party. While their candidate choices will remain private, their names and choice of party ballot will be circulated among the Democratic, Republican and two cannabis parties.

There is simply no need for that unwarranted invasion of voter privacy. Archbishop Bernard Hebda urged priests in the Minneapolis-St. Paul diocese to refrain from voting in the primary, so as to keep their political inclinations private. That was based on guidance from the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which said specifically about the Minnesota law: “The possibility that the data may become public should discourage clergy from participating. If the law were different and protected privacy, maybe the calculus would change. But it is the opinion of the MCC that discouraging primary voting during this cycle (though not in the general election) is the prudent thing to do.”

There are others in sensitive professions who need to keep such information quiet, while other voters simply choose privacy. Other states have found alternatives. California is among the states that allow “no party preference” voters to select a nonpartisan ballot.

Ignoring the need or desire to keep party preferences private in a time when polarization is so high boils down to just a different way of disenfranchising voters. Although it’s too late for voters who stayed away from the polls Tuesday because of privacy concerns, Minnesota legislators still have time to address their mistake before the secretary of state must turn over detailed voter information to the parties.