ST. PAUL — Republican Donald Trump will remain as an option for Minnesota voters, the state Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
Wholly dismissing the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's petition to remove Trump from Minnesota ballots, the court said the time is too tight to strike the Republican and still conduct an orderly election. The court's decision was quick: The DFL filed its petition five days before the court blasted it.
The court appeared to give particular weight to information from the Minnesota Secretary of State: At least 1 million general election ballots have already been printed and the absentee voting period begins Sept. 23.
The decision shores up the conclusion most experts already reached: The chances the high court would deny a major political party — and voters — their pick for the presidential election were slim. To comply with Democrats' wishes, the state would have had to replace not only printed ballots but also those already mailed out — and, likely, see its court's decision questioned in the highest quarters.
While the court rejected the DFL's contention that Trump should be removed from the ballot, its order did not deal with the substance of the Democrats' complaint.
The DFL had complained that Secretary of State Steve Simon improperly added Trump's name to the ballot because Republicans did not properly nominate their alternate electors. Electors are the people who actually cast Minnesota's 10 Electoral College votes.
Minnesota law says that major political parties are required to nominate presidential electors and alternatives "by delegate conventions called and held under the supervision of the respective state central committees of the parties of this state."
But the DFL claimed the Republicans did not use its delegate convention in May to pick their alternate electors. Instead, on the eve of filing with the secretary of state for ballot access, the Republican Party approved the alternates at a meeting of his executive committee.
"The state party leadership ignored state law," the DFL claimed.
After its loss on Monday, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin claimed the remedy to the error — ridding all Minnesota ballots of Trump's name — was not "ideal" but the party felt it needed to hold Republicans accountable.
"This lawsuit was about holding candidates accountable to follow the laws. Whether it is residency requirements or getting a candidate's name on the ballot, laws matter," Martin said.
In a statement, the chair of Republican Party Keith Downey made clear he does not accept that line. Channeling Trump, he said the DFL had attempted to "rig" the presidential election.
"We are pleased the court struck down this blatant Democrat attempt to rig the Minnesota election for Hillary Clinton and disenfranchise Minnesota voters," Downey said.
Although the high court did not rule on the issue, he maintained that his party was on firm legal ground in the way it filed its paperwork to get Trump on the ballot. But the court's brief decision — it was five-and-a-half pages long — does not grapple with those technicalities.
"Ballot printing has already begun, 1,000,000 or more ballots have been printed, and recent statutory changes giving Minnesotans the right to vote early compress the timelines even further. ... Early voting for the November general election, by mail and in-person, begins in just 11 days," the court wrote. It would have been "reasonable" for the DFL Party to file its petition earlier, the court said. Changing ballots at this late date would result in more than minimal prejudice.
Minnesota's DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon, whom Democrats sued, said he was grateful for the haste with which the court acted.
"Secretary Simon and elections officials throughout the state appreciate the timeliness of the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision," said spokesman Ryan Furlong. "As always, the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State will follow the Court's order."
The decision was reached by a foreshortened court. Justice David Stras, who had been mentioned as a possible Trump pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, did not participate in the decision. Future Justice Anne McKeig will be sworn in on Thursday.