MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a Republican candidate’s attempt to join President Donald Trump on the state’s primary election ballot, clearing the way for early voting to begin as scheduled late next week.
The Republican Party of Minnesota is listing only Trump on its ballot, although voters are free to write in other names. Minnesota law gives major parties the power to decide who they’ll list and who they won’t on presidential primary ballots.
That drew a lawsuit last month from Lake Elmo voter James Martin and Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, a businessman and frequent candidate who’s challenging Trump in several states for the GOP nomination. They argued that the law is unconstitutional and unfair because it gives parties sole power to determine who gets on the ballot in taxpayer-funded elections.
But in a three-page order issued a few hours after the high court heard oral arguments Thursday, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote that the petitioners claims “lack legal merit.” The court will issue a more detailed opinion laying out its reasoning sometime later.
Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon had warned the court that the schedule for the upcoming March 3 primary would be jeopardized if the court had granted the request. The Minnesota GOP did not participate in the case.
Early voting in the Super Tuesday primary is scheduled to begin statewide on Friday, Jan. 17, when voters can vote in person or request absentee ballots. Election officials would have needed more time to print and distribute the revised ballots, including time to send them overseas to service members, he said.
Minnesota Democrats will list 15 candidates on their ballot and give voters the option of voting “uncommitted” as well.
“Apparently I am not smart enough to decide what I think,,” said Martin, who is now relegated to writing in De La Fuente instead of seeing his name on the ballot. “That’s really disturbing to me, that I can’t vote for somebody I want to.”
De La Fuente called it “a very, very sad day for America. … What is Trump afraid of? Competition?”
Their attorney, Erick Kaardal, said he now hopes to change the law “and we’ll avoid this mockery of democracy.”