Monday, May 20, 2024
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State Supreme Court removes Sue Ek from the ballot

The Minnesota Supreme Court has removed a legislative candidate from a special election ballot in St. Cloud. The high court agreed with a lower court's decision that Sue Ek did not meet the residency qualifications to run for a state House seat. Now Republicans have to find a replacement for Ek before St. Cloud voters go to the polls.

St. Paul, Minn. — Sitting in a courtroom is not where a candidate wants to be a week before an election. But that's where Sue Ek found herself. Ek sat with her parents and watched while Supreme Court justices heard arguments over whether she should be on the ballot in an upcoming special election.

Earlier, a Ramsey County Judge ruled Ek hadn't lived in St. Cloud long enough to qualify as a candidate for the state House of Representatives. And now the Supreme Court has decided to remove Ek from the ballot.

Attorney Alan Weinblatt represents a DFL volunteer from St. Cloud who challenged Ek's eligibility. Weinblatt told the panel of six justices they faced an obvious choice. He read a housing affidavit Ek signed this summer, saying it was all the evidence needed to show that the candidate until recently lived in St. Paul.

The justices questioned Weinblatt on what affect pulling Ek off the ballot would have just a few days before the election. Chief Justice-designate Russell Anderson cited similar cases where the Supreme Court has left contested candidate's names on the ballot, and let the voters and the Legislature sort it out. Anderson referred to a case where the Legislature, not the courts, made the final decision. Attorney Weinblatt told the justices this case was clearly a legal question because Sue Ek broke the law.

"Respect for the law requires that this court as the ultimate protector of our state constitution, not in a political sense, but in a legal sense makes the determination," Weinblatt said.

During his arguments, Sue Ek's attorney Tony Trimble said removing Ek from the the ballot would deny her the constitutional right to run for office. Trimble told the justices they shouldn't consider the signed housing affidavit a credible reason to remove her. Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Trimble said Ek was confused by the housing affidavit, and that was understandable.

"Because the credibility determination was based on large part on an assumption that that affidavit could be fully understood, readily understood, by an average person. When I look at that affidavit, that's something that people come to me as a lawyer and say 'What does this mean?'," Trimble said.

Ek wouldn't talk on tape after the hearing, and didn't respond to phone messages left after the Supreme Court's decision was released.

Republicans now have seven days to pick a new candidate, or they can mount a write in campaign. Minnesota state GOP spokesman Mark Drake said at this point, they're not sure what they'll do.

"While we're disappointed with the court's decision, we continue to believe the voters of house district 15B deserve a choice in this election, and we continue to weigh our options," Drake said

Whoever take Ek's place will face a well-known St. Cloud area Democrat, Larry Haws. Haws worked for the city of St. Cloud for many years, and is now a county commissioner.

Absentee ballots could complicate matters, since a number of voters already could have cast votes for the removed candidate. The court ordered county election officials to remove Ek's name from absentee ballots until replacement ballots are ready, and to give out new absentee ballots to voters who ask for them.