Minn. Secretary of State Says Trump Ballot Status Not His Decision

September 7, 2023 by Dan McCue
Minn. Secretary of State Says Trump Ballot Status Not His Decision

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Saying his office has been besieged by calls to keep former President Donald Trump off the state’s presidential ballot due to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon on Thursday said it is up to the courts, not him, to decide the matter.

As secretary of state, Simon, a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, said his responsibility “is to ensure the people of Minnesota have free, fair, secure and accurate elections.”

He added that “every eligible Minnesotan deserves the opportunity to cast their ballot for the candidate of their choosing.” 

Simon’s written statement comes as a number of legal scholars and liberal groups are stepping up their efforts to disqualify Trump from another run for the White House under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a post-Civil War provision that sought to punish those who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort to the enemies.”

Section 3 gained new currency after the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol, at which supporters of Trump sought to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election results and keep the former president in power.

The issue is already being debated in at least three states — Arizona, Michigan and New Hampshire — and a lawsuit has been filed in a fourth, Colorado. That has election officials across the country, like Simon, trying to figure out how to navigate the issue.

For the record, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states:

“No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress, or elector of president and vice-president, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

In his written statement, Simon said he’s received hundreds of emails, calls and letters over the issue and that his office simply does not have legal authority to investigate a candidate’s eligibility for office.

“In the case of presidential candidates, the major political parties will submit names of candidates to our office for the presidential nomination primary by Jan. 2, 2024,” Simon said. “Those submissions will appear on the ballot for the March 5, 2024, contest unless a court says otherwise. A similar process and presumption will apply to the Nov. 5, 2024 election.  

“Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. 204B.44) allows one or more people to challenge in court the eligibility of a candidate to appear on a ballot. Our office will continue to honor the outcome of that process, as we have in the past,” he added.

Simon also circulated the relevant provisions of Minnesota’s election law. Minn. Stat. 207A.13, Subdivision 2, states that in regard to candidates on the ballot of the presidential nomination primary: 

“Each party participating in the presidential nomination primary must determine which candidates are to be placed on the presidential nomination primary ballot for that party. The chair of each participating party must submit to the secretary of state the names of the candidates to appear on the ballot for that party no later than 63 days before the presidential nomination primary. Once submitted, changes must not be made to the candidates that will appear on the ballot.”

It also requires that “No later than the seventh day before the presidential nomination primary, the chair of each participating party must submit to the secretary of state the names of write-in candidates, if any, to be counted for that party.”

In regard to candidacy,  Minn. Stat. 204B.04, Subdivision 1, states that “No individual shall be named on any ballot as the candidate of more than one major political party. No individual who has been certified by a canvassing board as the nominee of any major political party shall be named on any ballot as the candidate of any other major political party at the next ensuing general election.”

Subdivision 2 of the same law says that “no individual who seeks nomination for any partisan or nonpartisan office at a primary shall be nominated for the same office by nominating petition.” 

Finally, Minn. Stat. 204B.44 states that candidates have a right to correct “any of the following errors, omissions or wrongful acts which have occurred or are about to occur: 

(1) An error or omission in the placement or printing of the name or description of any candidate or any question on any official ballot, including the placement of a candidate on the official ballot who is not eligible to hold the office for which the candidate has filed.

(2) Any other error in preparing or printing any official ballot.

(3) Failure of the chair or secretary of the proper committee of a major political party to execute or file a certificate of nomination.

(4) Any wrongful act, omission or error of any election judge, municipal clerk, county auditor, canvassing board or any of its members, the secretary of state or any other individual charged with any duty concerning an election.”

The law requires that the petition describe the error, omission or wrongful act and the correction sought by the petitioner, and that it be filed with any judge of the Supreme Court in the case of an election for state or federal office or any judge of the district court in that county in the case of an election for county, municipal or school district office. 

“The petitioner shall serve a copy of the petition on the officer, board or individual charged with the error, omission or wrongful act, on all candidates for the office in the case of an election for state, federal, county, municipal or school district office, and on any other party as required by the court,” the law says. “Upon receipt of the petition the court shall immediately set a time for a hearing on the matter and order the officer, board or individual charged with the error, omission or wrongful act to correct the error or wrongful act or perform the duty or show cause for not doing so. In the case of a review of a candidate’s eligibility to hold office, the court may order the candidate to appear and present sufficient evidence of the candidate’s eligibility. The court shall issue its findings and a final order for appropriate relief as soon as possible after the hearing. Failure to obey the order is contempt of court.”

Simon has been Minnesota’s secretary of state since 2015. Prior to that he served as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. 

The Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the state.

As of 2023, it controls four of Minnesota’s eight U.S. House seats, both of its U.S. Senate seats, the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate, and all other statewide offices, including the governorship, making it the dominant party in the state.

The party was formed by a merger between the Minnesota Democratic Party and the Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party in the mid-1940s.

It is one of two state Democratic Party affiliates with a different name from that of the national party, the other being the North Dakota Democratic–Nonpartisan League Party.

Last month the nonprofits Free Speech For People and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund sent letters to the secretaries of state and chief election officials in five states, urging them to bar Trump from the ballot on the grounds that he aided and abetted an insurrection.

The letters were sent to New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

The organizations delivered a similar letter to chief election officials in 10 other states between April and July 2023 including Nevada, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile another group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is representing six Republican and unaffiliated voters in Colorado in a lawsuit pressing the same claim in the Denver County District Court.

“If the very fabric of our democracy is to hold, we must ensure that the Constitution is enforced and the same people who attacked our democratic system not be put in charge of it,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said in a written statement. 

“We aren’t bringing this case to make a point, we’re bringing it because it is necessary to defend our republic both today and in the future,” he continued. “While it is unprecedented to bring this type of case against a former president, Jan. 6 was an unprecedented attack that is exactly the kind of event the framers of the 14th Amendment wanted to build protections in case of. You don’t break the glass unless there’s an emergency.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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  • 14th Amendment
  • 2024 election
  • Donald Trump
  • insurrection
  • Minnesota
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