National Democratic groups sue Minnesota over ballot rules

Published 2:13 am Friday, November 29, 2019

By Torey Van Oot

Star Tribune

Two national campaign committees supporting congressional Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit challenging ballot order rules that will list DFL candidates in Minnesota beneath their major-party rivals in the 2020 general election.

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The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court Wednesday by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and two state voters, argues that the current system “creates an unlevel playing field in Minnesota’s elections by arbitrarily favoring” candidates based on their political affiliation.

“No party should benefit from an unfair advantage or be penalized because of a systemic disadvantage in our elections,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat who chairs the DSCC, said in a statement.

Under current law, major party candidates for partisan races are listed on the ballot based on the average number of votes their party won in the last election, with nominees from the party that received the most votes appearing last.

In the past, those rules meant only that the DFL and the Minnesota Republican Party rotated in the two top slots. But two new political affiliations — the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and Legal Marijuana Now Party — secured “major party” status after winning 5 percent of the vote in statewide races in 2018. Because their candidates received far fewer votes than the DFL or Republican nominees, state ballots are set to list their nominees first next year.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to block Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, from enforcing the rules and mandate the creation of a new ballot-order system “that gives similarly situated major-party candidates an equal opportunity to be listed first on the ballot.”

Simon was not immediately available for comment.

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