Focus on New Laws: Presidential Nomination Primary

September 3, 2019

Changes to the presidential nomination primary law will help protect the privacy of participants and ensure adequate reimbursement to cities that administer the primary.

First Special Session Chapter 10, the 2019 omnibus state government finance law, made modifications to the presidential nomination primary law enacted in 2016. The changes, which took effect July 1, include restricting information on participants’ party choice and modifying language regarding reimbursement to cities.

The 2016 law created a process for the state of Minnesota to conduct a presidential nomination primary on March 3, 2020. This will be administered by cities and counties much the same way elections are conducted.

Party choice

When the law was originally passed, Minnesota Statutes, sections 207A.12(b) and 201.091, subdivision 4 stipulated that when someone chose to participate in the primary, their party choice would be recorded on the public information list. This list is accessible to any registered voter in Minnesota who requests it from the Office of the Secretary of State (OSS).

Though the presidential nomination primary is a political activity and not an election, cities were very concerned that those who participated would not expect their party choice to become public information. Amending the statute was a League priority for the 2019 legislative session.

Article 4, sections 1 and 2 of First Special Session Chapter 10 amended Minnesota Statutes, section 201.091 by adding language requiring the secretary of state to maintain a list of the those who participated in the presidential nomination primary and the political party they selected.

Information maintained on the list is private data on individuals as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 13.02, subdivision 12, except that the secretary of state must provide the list to the chair of each major political party.

State reimbursement to cities

Minnesota Statutes, section 207A.15 provides a process for local units of government to be reimbursed for expenses incurred from conducting the primary. The OSS will submit to Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) an estimated cost of administering the primary, and MMB will provide funding to the OSS.

That funding will then be distributed to local units of government as a reimbursement based on expense reporting submitted to the OSS. Because the presidential nomination primary is a partisan activity administered on behalf of political parties, it is critical that local units of government be reimbursed fully and that no cost, anticipated or unanticipated, be borne by cities.

First Special Session Chapter 10 also added new language to Minnesota Statutes, section 207A.15, subdivision 2 regarding reimbursable local expenses. In addition to those items currently listed in statute, “other expenses as approved by the secretary of state” was added for those items that may be unanticipated.