Personally, I don’t think it’s a smart political move for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to go to court to try to get Trump and Pence taken off the November ballot. I certainly understand the reasoning, but I’m not arguing on the merits.

Under Minnesota state statutes, major parties need to supply the name of the party’s presidential and vice presidential nominees, the names of ten nominated electors and ten alternate electors in order to officially get their candidates on the ballot. As the Washington Post reported, the Minnesota GOP elected its electoral college members – the ones who actually cast the ballot – at its state convention in May, but forgot to elect alternate electors.

To rectify the problem, the state party held a last-minute meeting to select the alternates, a process the Democrats say violated election law. Minnesota’s secretary of state accepted the certification, and Trump was ultimately added to the ballot.

Did the process used to select these alternative electors violate state law? It appears so, since the statute provides that the alternates be chosen by a ‘delegate convention.’ And an abruptly called meeting of the party’s executive committee is not in any way a convention of delegates.

So, legally, I think they have a case. I can’t say whether they’ll win the case or not, but there’s a reason that as recently as late August, two days before the Secretary of State’s deadline, Trump and Pence appeared nowhere on the Minnesota sample ballot. It’s because they hadn’t provided alternate delegates, and the solution they came up with was driven by time constraints rather than compliance with the statute.

Still, there’s a higher moral calling here, which is to give people the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice. Third party spoilers aside, this election is a choice between Clinton/Kaine and Trump/Pence, and I don’t see it as more important that the GOP dot all their ‘i’s correctly than that Minnesotans get a fair shot at expressing their preference.

The same principle should apply to the voter who discovers that their precinct has moved or can’t find their photo ID. Whether you want to make their vote ‘provisional’ or not, their right to vote should take precedence over niggling details.

What’s to be gained by taking this choice away from the voters of Minnesota? Does the DFL Party think they’ll be more popular for it? And, true, Minnesota probably isn’t a swing state and Trump is unlikely to win there anyway. I think that it would actually be worse if this was being attempted in a highly competitive state, because that would seem to be an effort to actually change the result of the election by disregarding the voters of an entire state just so you can say that you made sure that letter of the law was respected.

In my opinion, the DFL Party should drop this suit and go talk to voters about showing up to support their congressional candidates.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at