The state Supreme Court is weighing whether to hear Dean Phillips’ lawsuit over the decision to leave the Minnesota congressman off the Dem presidential primary ballot.
Phillips filed a petition for original action with the court on Friday, alleging the Wisconsin Elections Commission and the state Presidential Preference Selection Committee “abused their discretion” by refusing to place him on the April 2 Wisconsin ballot despite his request to be included.
State law gives the Presidential Preference Selection Committee the sole power to place candidates on the primary ballot for parties that received at least 10% of the vote in the most recent guv election.
The statutes also call for the committee to determine which candidates are generally advocated or recognized by the news media. The suit cited Phillips’ poll numbers in national Dem primary surveys, as well as the less than 20% of the vote he received in the New Hampshire primary earlier this month, to argue he met the standard set in state law.
The committee, made up of Dem and GOP appointees, approved the lists of candidates submitted by the state party chairs during a Jan. 2 meeting without discussion.
“Wisconsin voters subsidize the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s primary election, and they deserve a true primary, in which they are free to vote for the same nationally recognized candidates who are appearing on other states’ ballots,” Friday’s filing argues.
The Supreme Court has set a Wednesday deadline for the commission, the Presidential Preference Selection Committee and others to respond to Phillips’ suit.
The Election Commission said it was reviewing the suit and had no immediate comment. Spokespeople for the state Dem and Republican parties declined comment.
Friday’s filing urged the court to take original action in the suit no later than Feb. 9, saying a quick resolution is needed. According to the Elections Commission website, Feb. 14 is the deadline for county clerks to deliver presidential preference only ballots and supplies to municipal clerks.
According to the petition, Phillips senior adviser Jeff Weaver contacted state Dem Chair Ben Wikler ahead of the committee meeting to request the congressman be included on the list of names for the primary ballot. But the party provided no assurance his name would be submitted for inclusion.
It argues state law imposes “a non-discretionary duty” on the committee to include anyone “whose candidacy is generally advocated or recognized in the national news media throughout the United States on the ballot.”
Four years ago, Republicans didn’t include former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld or former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, of Illinois, on the GOP ballot alongside Donald Trump, who was the incumbent at the time.
If the commission leaves candidates off the primary ballot, they have the option to collect at least 8,000 signatures from Wisconsinites with at least 1,000 and no more than 1,500 from qualified electors in each of the state’s eight congressional districts. The deadline to turn in those signatures is tomorrow.
According to an affidavit from Weaver, the campaign looked into hiring petition circulators and was told it would cost roughly $300,000 to collect the minimum of 8,000 signatures.
Read the petition.
Read Weaver’s affidavit.