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Lawsuit 'highly likely' to delay Minnesota's presidential primary

A Lake Elmo man is suing because his favored candidate is not on the ballot.

The start of Minnesota's 2020 presidential primaries is "highly likely" to be delayed because of a lawsuit filed by a resident of Lake Elmo.

In a court filing, Secretary of State Steve Simon said that unless a ruling is made on the lawsuit brought by James Martin by Jan. 3, the state's absentee ballots won't go out on time.

Martin is suing the state because the Minnesota Republican Party is only listing President Donald Trump among its options for the GOP primary, with the only other option available to voters being a write-in candidate.

He is arguing that it's unconstitutional not to give voters a choice among the candidates running for the nomination.

His lawyer told MPR News that the move by the GOP is "legally absurd, culturally absurd," and "makes the state look really stupid," but it has named the Secretary of State Simon, rather than the GOP, as the defendant.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Simon's request to move the scheduling of the case so a decision can be rendered by Jan. 3, arguing it can't "possibly be in compliance with Minnesota Law if the Supreme Court’s schedule is followed.

The Supreme Court rejected this plea, with Simon now saying it'll likely mean the delay of ballots for absentee voters, which are due to go out on Jan. 17.

"The process of formatting, programming, printing, and shipping ballots for all of the counties typically takes more than a week," Simon's filing said. "This is, in part, because most county auditors in the state procure ballot printing and programming services from a single vendor.

"This vendor has told the Secretary’s staff that, in order to meet the January 17 statutory deadline, it would need to receive a finalized list of candidates for the presidential nomination primary by the close of business on December 31, 2019.

"While the Secretary believes that counties and their vendors are capable of completing these tasks in slightly less time than this under exigent circumstances, the practicalities of formatting, programming, printing, and shipping 87 counties’ ballots are such that the process cannot realistically be completed in much less time than the seventeen calendar days that the predominant ballot vendor has requested."

Oral arguments for the lawsuit are scheduled for Jan. 9.

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In response, Martin said in a statement to the press: "All in all, I think our Supreme Court did a good job striking a balance here.

"The important issue regarding our inability to vote for candidates qualified to hold office under the Minnesota and US Constitution needs to be very carefully considered: many men and women have died so we can choose from among us who will govern.

"And, I do agree with the underlying premise of the Secretary in that Minnesota needs the decision to be handed down sooner than later."

Most of Minnesota's voters will cast their primary ballots on Mar. 3, otherwise known as "Super Tuesday."

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