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Minnesota court dismisses bid to block Trump on primary ballot; leaves door open for general election challenge

Minnesota Supreme Court dismisses bid to block Trump on primary ballot
Minnesota Supreme Court dismisses bid to block Trump on primary ballot 01:34

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against a petition seeking to keep former President Donald Trump off the state's 2024 primary ballot, but left the door open to a potential subsequent challenge should Trump be selected as the Republican nominee in the general election.

The court's ruling stated that "petitioners have standing and that their claims are ripe as to the issue of whether former President Trump should be excluded from the 2024 Republican presidential nomination primary" but that "we reach a different conclusion regarding petitioners' claim that it would be error for the Secretary of State to place former President Trump's name on the ballot for the 2024 general election ballot."

"Although the Secretary of State and other election officials administer the mechanics of the election, this is an internal party election to serve internal party purposes, and winning the presidential nomination primary does not place the person on the general election ballot as a candidate for President of the United States," the ruling states. "There is no state statute that prohibits a major political party from placing on the presidential nomination primary ballot, or sending delegates to the national convention supporting, a candidate who is ineligible to hold office."

The court went on to argue that, "because there is no error to correct here as to the presidential nomination primary, and petitioners' other claims regarding the general election are not ripe, the petition must be dismissed, but without prejudice as to petitioners bringing a petition raising their claims as to the general election."

Click here to read the court's full ruling.

The petitioners have previously indicated that they would file an appeal if the decision didn't go their way, and representatives on both sides of the issue said the would take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon released this statement on the ruling Wednesday evening:

In just 72 days, on January 19, voters in Minnesota will begin to cast their ballot for the March 5 Presidential Nominating Primary. I'm grateful that the Minnesota Supreme Court acted quickly in this case to provide Minnesotans with certainty about who is eligible to appear on the ballot for that particular contest.

The court has made it clear that former President Trump's name will appear on the primary ballot, should the Republican party choose to submit him as a candidate. We respect the decision and will uphold the outcome.

Trump's campaign issued a statement following the court's decision, saying in part, "Today's decision in Minnesota, like New Hampshire before it, is further validation of the Trump Campaign's consistent argument that the 14th Amendment ballot challenges are nothing more than strategic, un-Constitutional attempts to interfere with the election."

The Minnesota Republican Party chair said, in part, "Today is a good day for democracy and the rule of law, as the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected attempts made by Democrat activists to circumvent and undermine the voice of voters in Minnesota elections."

Case background

The lawsuit sparking the case cited the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause as grounds for Trump's disqualification. The clause says anyone who has "previously taken an oath" to the Constitution and then "engaged in insurrection or rebellion ... or given aid or comfort," can't be president or vice president, or hold any office, in the United States.

Five Minnesota Supreme Court justices considered the case and two recused themselves. Four of those who considered it were appointed by Democratic governors and the other was appointed by a Republican.

State officials had asked the court to make a swift decision due to Minnesota's presidential primary taking place in March.

A similar case is being considered by the Colorado Supreme Court.

David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University, previously said the case could have a significant impact on future presidential elections. 

"If Donald Trump is excluded from the ballot here what's to prevent another court in another state to say that something that Joe Biden did makes him an insurrectionist and therefore, he can be excluded from the ballot," he said.  

Biden beat Trump in Minnesota in 2020 by more than 233,000 votes. A recent CBS News poll showed Trump trailing Biden among likely voters, though his deficit was within the margin of error. More respondents also said Trump would better-suited to keep the U.S. out of a war and they would be better off financially under Trump.

Trump appeared in court in New York this week in a civil trial accusing him of fraud. 

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