facebook linkedin twitter

Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to State GOP’s Trump-Only Primary Ballot

January 10, 2020 by Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to State GOP’s Trump-Only Primary Ballot January 10, 2020by Stephen Montemayor Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (TNS)
Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie Gildea. The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2019, rejected a voter challenge to a law that allowed the state Republican Party to list only President Donald Trump on GOP primary ballots.(Leila Navidi/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a voter challenge to a law that allowed the state Republican Party to list only President Donald Trump on GOP primary ballots.

In a case that threatened to disrupt next week’s early primary voting, the justices upheld a state election law allowing state party chairs to pick who is — and isn’t — included on presidential primary ballots. Early voting starts Jan. 17 for a regular primary election on March 3.

A three-page opinion signed by Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea found only that a petition seeking to add the name of perennial candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente lacks legal merit. The decision was rendered hours after oral arguments in the case, reflecting the need for state election officials to prepare and distribute ballots by the end of next week.

The law had been challenged by James Martin, a Minnesota voter from Lake Elmo, and De La Fuente, a California businessman and long-shot candidate seeking the 2020 Republican nomination for president.

“We’re challenging basically a process that’s made a mockery of democracy,” said Minneapolis attorney Erick Kaardal, representing Martin and De La Fuente. “It’s very sad that we’re going to spend $12 million (in) March on the presidential primary and they’re going to have only one candidate on the GOP primary ballot.”

Martin and De La Fuente took legal action in October after the Minnesota GOP submitted a ballot to state election officials listing only Trump on party ballots.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon had sought an expedited decision on the challenge in order to prepare the ballots, but was denied an earlier hearing by the court last month. Simon had said an overhaul of the ballots could cost “many thousands of dollars” to cover the cost of reprinting of paper ballots and reprogramming automated voting systems that count ballots and help voters with disabilities.

Thursday’s decision, however, let stand the ballots submitted by the GOP and DFL parties.

Kaardal called the proposed GOP primary ballot an unconstitutional effort to dictate the election’s result. In arguments before the court, he repeatedly underscored that the elections are funded at taxpayer expense and should include all qualified candidates. Otherwise, Kaardal asked the justices, why would taxpayers foot the bill for an election that did not offer them a “meaningful vote”?

Assistant Attorney General Nathan Hartshorn, representing Simon in the case, acknowledged that the state Republican Party’s decision to exclude other candidates amounted to a “political determination” to favor the president. But, Hartshorn added, state parties have constitutionally protected free-association rights to choose who appears on presidential primary ballots.

The Minnesota DFL Party submitted a list of 15 candidates. Democratic officials also submitted briefs in the case defending the prerogative of party chairs to “define the process” by determining the makeup of their ballots.

The Minnesota GOP did not participate in the case, prompting Justice Natalie Hudson to note in Thursday’s hearing that the party has been “conspicuous in its absence.”

“We should be concerned because there is an absence of information,” said Kaardal, himself a former state GOP party official.

Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan has previously argued that her job as party leader is to help re-elect Trump. The Republicans have since formally requested a write-in option on their party ballot, but Kaardal argued Thursday that the party has not requested that Simon’s office tally all write-in votes for candidates like De La Fuente. As it stands, Kaardal said, the office is only required to list how many total write-in votes were cast for all candidates.

Martin, the named voter in the challenge, said the GOP’s move left him “being swept under the rug,” adding, “I hope to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with other Minnesotans expressing our opinions about what we believe our party should be putting forward to the national convention.”

Hartshorn argued that the law seeks to protect against ballots becoming “cluttered” with a long “laundry list” ballot that includes frivolous candidates.

Some justices noted the length of the 15-name ballot submitted by the DFL. “Some might say it’s even cluttered,” Gildea said during the hearing.

The March 3 Super Tuesday primary is Minnesota’s first presidential nomination primary since 1992. For the past six presidential nomination cycles, the state’s major parties pledged their delegates to their respective national conventions based on straw polls held at local caucuses.

Kaardal said that De La Fuente is on primary ballots in about a dozen states. He has previously mounted unsuccessful bids for elected office — most recently in 2018 when he sought the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate races in nine states, including Minnesota.

Earlier this week Wisconsin Republicans also decided to limit their primary ballot options to Trump, freezing out other challengers like former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh. Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt cited the other candidates’ inability to get on primary ballots in other states as a reason for their exclusion on Wisconsin’s ballot.

But at one point during Thursday’s arguments, Gildea mused whether Minnesota’s law governing who appears on ballots is appropriate.

“Isn’t there something disturbing about the idea that the state could effectively control who voters can be allowed to vote for?” Gildea asked. “At the 50,000-foot level, isn’t that disturbing?”

———

©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

State News

California Oil Spill Renews Calls to Ban Offshore Drilling

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has been a leader in restricting offshore oil drilling since the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara... Read More

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has been a leader in restricting offshore oil drilling since the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara spill that sparked the modern environmental movement, and the latest spill off Huntington Beach is prompting fresh calls for an end to such drilling. That's easier... Read More

September 14, 2021
by Victoria Turner
State and Local Governments Will Drive Broadband Deployment Success

States will be at the helm of the $42.5 billion in block grants designated in the historic $65 billion proposed... Read More

States will be at the helm of the $42.5 billion in block grants designated in the historic $65 billion proposed for nationwide high-speed broadband within President Biden’s infrastructure bill.  The broadband-related funding of the bill itself shows the federal government recognizes broadband as essential as a... Read More

April 22, 2021
by TWN Staff
New Caucus Aims to Bring Main Street Priorities to Capitol Hill

Eighteen members of Congress on Wednesday announced the formation of a new Congressional Caucus whose intent is to ensure that... Read More

Eighteen members of Congress on Wednesday announced the formation of a new Congressional Caucus whose intent is to ensure that the priorities and concerns of cities and counties across America are heard on Capitol Hill. The bipartisan Congressional Caucus of Former Local Elected Officials was formed... Read More

April 16, 2021
by TWN Staff
35 States at Extreme Risk of Partisan Gerrymandering

Thirty-five states are at extreme or high risk of partisan gerrymandering, according to an in-depth report by the nonpartisan RepresentUs... Read More

Thirty-five states are at extreme or high risk of partisan gerrymandering, according to an in-depth report by the nonpartisan RepresentUs organization. The Gerrymandering Threat Index rates all 50 states, and its authors argue their findings underscore the urgent need to pass the redistricting reforms within the... Read More

Plan Afoot to Extend PPP Deadline to May 31

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan bill to extend the Paycheck Protection Program to May 31 is gaining support in the House... Read More

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan bill to extend the Paycheck Protection Program to May 31 is gaining support in the House and the Senate and will likely be voted on before lawmakers head back to their districts at the end of the month. The proposal to extend... Read More

March 2, 2021
by TWN Staff
Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom Date Announced

WASHINGTON - It’s hard to believe it’s almost that time of year again, but on Monday came word that the... Read More

WASHINGTON - It’s hard to believe it’s almost that time of year again, but on Monday came word that the peak bloom for the cherry blossoms ringing the Tidal Basin in Washington is currently expected to occur April 2-5.  That means the most vivid of blooms... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top