EPHS Hosts Town Hall

Katherine Kregness, Website Editor

On December 4th at 6:30 in the East Commons, members of the Minnesota legislature, along with the Minnesota Secretary of State, Steve Simon, met for a public town hall. The purpose of the meeting was to inform the public of upcoming voting changes, talk about the caucus, and have a conversation about election security in Minnesota. State representative Laurie Pryor, state representative Carlie Kotyza-Whitthuhn, and state senator Steve Cwodzinski joined Simon at the podium to talk about these issues. 

Cwodzinski began the event with a speech about the responsibility of the American public to vote. “Freedom isn’t free,” said Cwodzinski, referring to the civic duty of voting. He continues, saying, “Are we participants, or are we just spectators?” He finished off his introduction by quoting Benjamin Franklin, saying, “We are a republic, if you can keep it.”

Simon got to the podium next, after a short introduction. Known for his work in voter security, Simon’s priority issues aim to remove barriers, and expand access to voting. “All roads lead to the ballot box,” said Simon. 

Minnesota has a historically high voter turnout record, as the number one state twice consecutively. Simon hopes to keep this record for many years to come, saying, “The only thing harder than getting to the top, it staying there.” Simon and Pryor explained that this was in part due to the sense of civic responsibility throughout the state as well as good education. Minnesota also has a historically high youth voter turnout. 

The issue of election fraud, especially in relation to foreign powers, is one very frequently talked about leading into the 2020 presidential election. After the 2016 election, when many intelligence sources concluded that a foreign power had indeed broken into the election systems of a few states, the federal government looked into funding a revamp of the technology involved. The updated cybersecurity would be very expensive, and congress passed a bill supplying the money to state governments. “Cybersecurity is a race without a finish line,” said Simon.

Due to complications and delays, Minnesota was the last state to receive the funding. The state government was unable to implement the necessary changes until after the 2018 elections had taken place. Simon was shocked at the lack of urgency from congress in passing the funding. “Federal support matters,” he said. 

The other major announcement made at the town hall, was the shift from a caucus system to a primary vote. The presidential primaries will take place on March 3rd and run like any other election. 

This vote is what is referred to as a closed primary. Voters must choose a party to vote for in the primaries and then receive their ballot from there. The information regarding which party ballot was selected by any particular person will be available to all four major parties with ballots. 

Some constituents find this very alarming, saying that they could be the target of violence and ostracization because of their chosen party. “There are really no constraints about what these parties can or can’t do with that information,” said Simon. He continued that he and other lawmakers are working to change this policy. 

The town hall was concluded with all four lawmakers stressing the importance of voting and civic involvement prompting everyone to register to vote, take part in the upcoming primaries, and be sure to participate in the census.