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Candidate Mitchell Asks Judge to Fill in Blanks; Favorable Ruling Unlikely

Eager reader and legislator Stace Nelson comes through with a link to the story the second Democrat asking a judge to put him on the ballot. Mitchell's David Mitchell (yes, if you're working on a punchline, he's already heard it) wants to run again for a District 20 State House seat. (Mitchell placed last in four-candidate fields for that office in 2006 and in 2008.) According to Chris Mueller at the Mitchell Daily Republic, Mitchell didn't fill in all the blanks:

Mitchell said his candidacy was rejected because he neglected to fill out a section of the petition that requires candidates to verify their identity and party affiliation under oath.

"I admit it was a mistake, but it shouldn't override the validity of these petitions," Mitchell said.

Mitchell expects the challenge will go to court.

"The attitude of [Secretary of State Jason Gant's] office has been any mistake disqualifies you and if you don't like it, you have to go to court," he said [Chris Mueller, "Spurned Local Candidate Files Lawsuit," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2012.04.06].

I've met Dave Mitchell. He's a good guy. He teaches business, economics, and the occasional ethics class at Dakota Wesleyan University. But his argument isn't nearly as compelling as the arguments supporting spurned District 8 Senate candidate Charlie Johnson. Secretary Gant disqualified Johnson's petition based on a labeling error by the county auditor, and error that Johnson contends doesn't even cause his otherwise complete and correct petition to violate state law.

Mitchell admits he omitted information on his petition. SDCL 12-6-8 makes clear that the candidate must include a signed declaration with the petition. SDAR 05:02:08:01 gives the exact form of that declaration on the petition, requiring the candidate to give his name, party affiliation, and signature and swear to that information under notary seal before circulating petitions. That's a reasonable precaution to make sure that the people who are running are really running.

On top of that, SDAR 05:02:08:00.01 makes clear that "no signature on a petition sheet may be counted" if "[t]he declaration of candidacy has not been completed on or after the first date authorized by statute to circulate the petition, and signed by the candidate and the signature witnessed by an official empowered to administer oaths in South Dakota" [clause (c)].

Under that rule, Secretary Gant's rejection of Mitchell's petition isn't arbitrary partisan arrogance. It's Secretary Gant acting as he is bound by state law and rule. Unless the MDR report has left out some key information, it sounds like candidate Mitchell would do well to ask the state Democratic Party to remove him from litigation appealing Secretary Gant's petition rejections and focus his energy on making the rounds with Indy petitions

One Comment

  1. Elisa 2012.04.09

    My understanding is that there are three places where a person indicates their party affiliation. So on this petition there were two other places where he already delcared he was running as a democtratic candidate. According to the SD Democratic Party the petition is clear that he's running as a democratic candidate. In both cases the intent of the candidate is clear.

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