Is it really possible that the Minnesota Supreme Court will bump the Trump/Pence ticket off the ballot because the state Republican Party goofed up and forgot to nominate alternate presidential electors at its convention?
That’s certainly the hope of DFL Chairman Ken Martin, who on Thursday filed a petition asking the high court to do precisely that.
But if history is any guide, the gambit is doomed, according to Richard Winger, an election law expert and editor of the San-Francisco-based newsletter Ballot Access News.
Minnesota law requires political parties to select electors — the people who cast Electoral College ballots following the popular vote — and their alternates at conventions as part of putting a nominee on the ballot.
Democrats argue the GOP didn’t choose its alternates at its convention but that party leaders chose them last month to meet a looming deadline. They say that invalidates the GOP’s ballot submission and that Secretary of State Steve Simon should have rejected it.
Over the years, there have plenty of lawsuits seeking to knock a major party’s presidential ticket off the ballot over similar violations of election law.
In 1964, Winger noted, a legal challenge was brought in Iowa after Democrats neglected to certify the nomination of Lyndon Johnson prior to a statutory deadline and, more recently, certification challenges were brought when presidential nominees from both major parties blew deadlines (in Indiana in 1998 and in Texas in 2008).
“But every single time in history when the major parties have done something like this, the courts have ruled in their favor,” said Winger.
In the 2008 case, he noted, the Texas Supreme Court rejected the petition without even taking oral arguments.
David Schultz, a professor of political science and law at Hamline University, thinks the Trump/Pence ticket will remain on the ballot in Minnesota.
“If I were a betting person, I’d say the Supreme Court will err on the side of voter choice and ballot access,” he said.
Historically, the Minnesota court “seems to err on the side of ballot access,” Schultz added, noting that the court accommodated the DFL’s last-minute substitution of Walter Mondale as its nominee following the death of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone in 2002 and the GOP’s last-minute substitution of Arne Carlson as the party’s gubernatorial candidate following the withdrawal of nominee John Grunseth in 1990.
If the past jurisprudence and history are on the side of Trump, then why did the DFL bother to bring the petition?
Schultz said political gamesmanship is one likely motive, since the petition will force the state GOP to divert time and money defending the top of its ticket instead of focusing on hotly contested legislative races.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.