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Cilek v. Office of Minnesota Secretary of State

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 15, 2019

Andrew Cilek, et al., Respondents,
v.
Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, et al., Appellants.

          Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CV-17-4692

          Erick G. Kaardal, Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents)

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Nathan J. Hartshorn, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellants)

          Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Cleary, Chief Judge; and Slieter, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA), Minn. Stat. §§ 13.01-.90 (2018), and Minn. Stat. § 201.091 (2018), data on (1) registered voter status, (2) reason for a challenge, and (3) voter history are public data.

          OPINION

          WORKE, JUDGE

         Appellants challenge the district court's grant of summary judgment to respondents, and denial of their summary-judgment motion, on respondents' claim that appellants unlawfully refused to disclose certain voter data that respondents requested under the MGDPA. Because we conclude that the data requested by respondents, and not produced by appellants, are public data, we affirm.

         FACTS

         Respondent Minnesota Voters Alliance's stated objective is to ensure confidence in the integrity of Minnesota elections. Respondent Andrew Cilek is its executive director (respondents referred to collectively as "the MVA"). On July 21, 2017, the MVA sent a letter to appellants Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State and Steve Simon in his official capacity as Minnesota Secretary of State (appellants referred to collectively as "the secretary of state") requesting access, pursuant to the MGDPA, to "non-private government data" "contained in the Statewide Voter Registration System [(the SVRS)]."

         The SVRS is the centralized voter registration database used by the secretary of state and election officials to administer elections in Minnesota. Minn. Stat. § 201.022 (2018). The SVRS contains information on registered voters and previously registered voters. Voter information includes: name; voter ID number; address; date of birth; driver's license number; phone number; email address; method by which registration application was submitted; whether a request was made to protect SVRS data from public disclosure due to safety concerns; status (active, inactive, challenged, and deceased); and voter history, including a list of prior elections in which the voter cast a vote. The MVA requested:

Voter registration, status and voting history information on every Minnesota voter, whether active, inactive or deleted [for] whom the secretary of state maintains or has maintained voter registration data from January 1, 2016, to present.
The information requested includes, but is not limited to the following voter data:
• Voter ID #
• First middle and last names and any suffix
• Address
• Phone number (if ...

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