DFL looked petty, harshly partisan with election lawsuit

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

The Minnesota Supreme Court served this state’s voters well Monday when it ruled that Donald Trump and Michael Pence will remain on the presidential election ballot, despite a DFL Party challenge to the legal validity of the Republican Party’s slate of alternate electors.

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In a backhanded way, the high court’s decision and the dispatch with which it was issued also served the DFL well. The lawsuit the DFL brought last week over a legal technicality ranks among the many unforced political errors voters have already witnessed in this raucous election season. DFLers ought to hope that the court’s quick action will allow voters to soon forget their party’s ham-handed attempt to deny voters a chance to see Trump’s name on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The Supreme Court did not find it necessary to rule on the central argument the DFL Party made in its suit — namely, that the Republican Party did not follow the letter of state law regarding its delegation to the Electoral College. The party failed to choose its slate of alternate electors at its state convention in May. Rather, it filed a slate of Electoral College alternates chosen after the convention by a smaller party panel.

That’s a minor deviation from state statute that DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon — a fair-minded fellow — was willing to overlook for the sake of giving Minnesotans a full roster of presidential candidates on their general-election ballots. That should have been acceptable as well to a DFL Party that purports to stand for electoral inclusivity.

Instead, the party brought suit on Sept. 8, two weeks and a day before the start of absentee voting in the general election and after the printing of ballots had begun. The Supreme Court said it tossed out the suit because DFLers had waited too long to file it. “Every day of delay increases the potential prejudicial impact on election processes and the electorate’s right to vote,” wrote Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea in the order dismissing DFL Chair Ken Martin’s petition.

Today’s take-no-prisoners style of political combat puts state party leaders under internal pressure to seize any opportunity to put the opposition at a disadvantage. Some have argued that Martin had little choice but to pursue court action. Minnesotans’ negative response to the move invites DFL partisans to rethink that approach.

Martin succeeded in calling attention to the state GOP’s failure to adhere to the law. But that point had already been amply made earlier last week when the state Supreme Court disqualified GOP state Rep. Bob Barrett from re-election this year for failure to reside in his District 32B, as the state Constitution requires. Making much of the GOP’s error in the manner of choosing alternate electors only served to make the DFL Party look petty — and harshly partisan.