Minnesota Democrats defend Trump-only GOP primary ballot

FILE – In this Nov. 4, 2015, photo, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner watches, left, as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump fills out his papers to be on the nation’s earliest presidential primary ballot at The Secretary of State’s office in Concord, N.H. A commission created by Trump to investigate his allegations of voter fraud is scheduled to meet in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota’s Democratic party and the state’s chief elections officer are defending a state law that allows Minnesota Republicans to list only President Donald Trump on the ballot for the state’s presidential primary in March.

Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party urged the Minnesota Supreme Court in briefs this week to affirm that parties have the power to determine their primary ballot lineups. Parties are private entities protected by constitutional principles of free association, they argued.

The papers were filed in a lawsuit brought by Lake Elmo voter James Martin and Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, a businessman and frequent candidate who’s challenging Trump in several states for the GOP nomination. The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Thursday.

Simon has urged the court to settle the question quickly because election officials need time to prepare absentee ballots for early voting, which starts in just two weeks.

The Minnesota GOP plans to list only Trump on its March 3 Super Tuesday ballot, but will allow write-in votes for others. Minnesota Democrats will list 15 candidates plus “uncommitted.”

Attorney Erick Kaardal, who represents Marion and De La Fuente, argued in a separate filing that the state is paying for the primary, so voters have the right to fully participate with a full slate of candidates.