Election officials ask Supreme Court to reject Phillips effort to get on primary ballot

By: - February 1, 2024 1:43 pm

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 25: Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) speaks while joining fellow House Democrats to mark the 200th day of the 116th Congress on the steps outside the U.S. Capitol July 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. Just hours before leaving for the six-week summer recess, Congress is set to pass a budget and raise the debt limit after a deal was struck between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Wisconsin Elections Commission and a special bipartisan panel say that Democratic presidential longshot Dean Phillips waited too long to sue them in hopes of gaining access to the state’s primary election ballot. 

The WEC and the Wisconsin Presidential Preference Selection Committee argued in a brief filed with the state Supreme Court Wednesday that Phillips, a congressional representative from Minnesota, had plenty of time between when he was left off the ballot on Jan. 2 and when he filed his lawsuit on Jan. 26 to gather enough signatures to gain access to the ballot or file his suit earlier. The two bodies said that now it’s too late because county clerks need enough time to have ballots printed before the first absentee ballots are sent to voters in the military and living overseas on Feb. 15. 

After the committee chose to only include President Joe Biden’s name on the Democratic primary ballot, Phillips needed to gather 8,000 signatures — 1,000 from each of the state’s eight congressional districts — to override that decision.

“During the critical four-week period between January 2 and January 30, Phillips did nothing until the eleventh hour,” the election officials wrote. “While his campaign knew on January 2 that the Committee had not included him as a candidate, he neither commenced a signature and petition effort nor sought judicial recourse until three days before the Commission should provide the certified list of all qualified candidates to the county clerks — deadlines that enable municipal clerks to meet mandatory deadlines for distributing ballots to military and overseas voters.”

In Wisconsin, the candidates on the presidential primary ballots are selected by the bipartisan selection committee, which is made up of state Democratic and Republican party chairs, majority and minority leaders in the state Legislature and others. The committee met earlier this month, choosing Biden as the only candidate on the Democratic ballot. 

The committee is required by state law to include on the primary ballot all names “”whose candidacy is generally advocated or recognized in the national news media throughout the United States.” In his filing, attorneys for Phillips argued that he is a nationally recognized candidate who has garnered support from voters in other states, noting that in New Hampshire, he got 20% of the vote. Biden did not appear on the New Hampshire ballot but received 64% of the vote through write-ins. 

The filing states that Phillips campaign officials tried to communicate with Democratic Party of Wisconsin officials in December about gaining access to the ballot. 

The presidential primary is set for April 2.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.