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Why there’s almost no way Ellison’s name won’t be on November’s ballot

The deadline for the parties to finalize the names of their nominees is 79 days before the general election. That deadline passed yesterday.

Rep. Keith Ellison’s name will be on the ballot as the DFL nominee, in November.
MinnPost photo by Craig Lassig

Of course, I have no idea what complications future developments in the matter of Keith Ellison’s candidacy for Minnesota attorney general might bring.

But after consulting Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon over the weekend, I can shed some light on a question about which politically obsessed Minnesotans may have been wondering, namely:

What would happen if information should come to light that would cause the DFL to want to substitute someone other than Ellison as the DFL nominee for attorney general?

The short answer is, as of today, there is no credible or reasonable way for the DFL to get a name on the November general election ballot other than Ellison as their candidate for attorney general, or to get Ellison’s name off.

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The deadline for the parties to finalize the names of their nominees is 79 days before the general election. That deadline passed yesterday. After that, a name can be removed from the ballot only if the nominee has died, has suffered severe debilitation, or been deemed by a court to be ineligible.

The first two of those are in the hands of higher powers. The idea of a candidate being deemed by a court to be ineligible would be something far-fetched, like the court ruling that the candidate had not been legally eligible for the office because, for example, the candidate was not a legal Minnesota resident. Short of death, disability or ineligibility, Ellison’s name will be on the November ballot as the DFL nominee for attorney general.

If you are wondering how the DFL was allowed to substitute former Vice President Walter Mondale on the ballot for U.S. Senator in 2002 to replace DFL nominee and incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone, that case, of course, was covered by the exception for the death of the nominee chosen by the primary.

If you have been around Minnesota politics for a couple of decades, you may be thinking: “Wait a minute. Didn’t the Republicans substitute Arne Carlson as their gubernatorial nominee in 1990, well after the primary had been won by Jon Grunseth, after evidence of sexual improprieties came out against Grunseth?”

The answer to that is yes. And Carlson went on to win the general election. But that happened in 1990. The law that Simon described above was adopted in 2013.

So, long story short, Ellison’s name will be on the ballot as the DFL nominee, in November.

I’ve heard talk that the DFL could rally around some other DFLer as a write-in candidate. Yes, that would be legally possible, but politically unwise for the party and its likeliest effect would be to divide the DFL vote and thereby greatly increase the electoral chances of Doug Wardlow, the Republican nominee for attorney general.

In closing, I should add that Ellison has clearly and consistently denied the allegations of physical and verbal abuse by his former girlfriend. I certainly have no basis to know which of them is telling the truth.

And lastly, the law Simon described above is Minnesota statute 204B.13, titled “VACANCY IN NOMINATION; PARTISAN OFFICE.” And can be accessed on page 101 of this document, compiled and published by the office of the secretary of state.