Two national Democratic groups are suing Minnesota over the state’s “unfair” ballot laws that “systemically and arbitrarily disadvantage” DFL candidates.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota against Secretary of State Steve Simon in his official capacity.
The lawsuit challenges Minnesota’s ballot order statute, which requires that “major partisan candidates” be listed “in reverse order of their average vote in the last election.” As a result, many candidates affiliated with Minnesota’s Democratic Party, known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, will be listed at the bottom of the ballot in the 2020 election while candidates from the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party will be listed at the top.
The lawsuit claims this statute “systemically and arbitrarily disadvantages all candidates who affiliate with Minnesota’s state Democratic Party” through a phenomenon called “position bias.”
“In recent years, this particular piece of political mythology has become increasingly indisputable as a matter of fact. Researchers have long understood that, due to a phenomenon known as ‘position bias’ or the ‘primacy effect,’ individuals manifest bias toward selecting the first in a set of visually-presented options,” the complaint argues.
“Thus, [while there] can be no question as to whether Minnesota could feasibly diffuse the ballot order effect for major political party candidates in general elections, it affirmatively chooses not to do so. And in making that choice, it unconstitutionally puts its thumb on the scale in favor of the candidates of one political party above all others,” it adds.
The lawsuit calls the ballot order statute a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by treating one major political party differently from other major parties. This puts the DFL “at an unfair and arbitrary electoral disadvantage based solely on the performance of that party’s candidates in the last state general election,” the lawsuit states.
“No party should benefit from an unfair advantage or be penalized because of a systemic disadvantage in our elections,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), chair of the DSCC, said in a press release. “We’ve already been seeing the courts reject these unconstitutional statutes, and we’ll continue to challenge laws like this so all voters have a fair say in our democracy and candidates everywhere can compete on an even playing field.”
DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said candidates in Minnesota “should never be forced to overcome a partisan disadvantage that has been arbitrarily written into the law.”
“As the 2020 election approaches, we’re challenging unconstitutional provisions in states across the country because voters have the right to be represented by public servants who were elected for the merits of their ideas,” she added. “That’s just common sense.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “People Voting” by Wyofile. CC BY 2.0.