Minnesota Supreme Court dismisses petition to remove local Senator from August 9th primary ballot

A petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court to remove current District 27 Senator Gene Dornink from the ballot for the August 9th primary election for the office of Senator from District 23 has been dismissed.

The ruling, which was issued on Friday dismissed a petition filed by Judy Kay Olson of Glenville on July 28th alleging that Dornink would not be eligible for election to Senate District 23 because he had not resided in the district for the six months prior to the November 8th general election, as required by Article IV, Section 6 of the Minnesota Constitution and Minnesota Statute 204b.06.  The petition alleged that Dornink still resides in Hayfield, which because of redistricting that occured in February is now loated in newly created Senate District 24.  The ruling stated that on May 24th, Dornink filed an affidavit of candidacy with the Minnesota Secreatary of State that contained a handwritten statement that he would be a Republican Party candidate in the 2022 election for State Senate from District 23.  Dornink was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2020 to represent District 27.  Dornink, according to the ruling, publicly announced in February his decision to move his residence to the newly created District 23, and when he filed his affidavit of candidacy, he wrote as his residence address a location in the city of Brownsdale, a city in Senate District 23.

The petition included affidavits from three people who had purportedly investigated where Dornink has been living since May 8th.  The investigation included visiting the Hayfield property four times and the Brownsdale property five times between May 8th and July 15th, searching property tax records, and speaking with phone companies. The petition sought an order directing the removal of Dornink’s name from
the August 9th primary election ballot.

The state Supreme Court ruled in the order Friday that the attempt to strike Senator Dornink from the primary ballot came too late as Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, who wrote the order, stated that the court acknowledged that some delay in filing a petition challenging a candidate’s residency may be excused because the challenger needs to know more than where the candidate claims to be residing and instead needs to investigate and gather evidence to prove that the candidate is not residing in the district.  Gildea went to state that the record indicates that Olson did not act expeditiously or diligently in conducting her investigation. Although Olson’s associates made two visits to the Brownsdale property within four days of Dornink filing his affidavit of candidacy on May 24th, Gildea wrote that they waited 18 days, until June 15th, to visit it again, and after visiting it on June 15th and 16th, they waited another month, or until July 15th to make their last visit. Because there were long periods in which Olson and her associates did nothing to investigate, the delay in conducting the investigation, according to Gildea, was unreasonable.

Chief Justice Gildea went on to determine that Olson’s unreasonable delay in filing the petition and the substantial prejudice that would result from making a last-minute change to the ballots after they have
been printed and early voting commenced, required that the petition be dismissed.

The Republican winner in the Senate District 23 primary Tuesday will face DFL’er Brandon Lawhead of Austin in the November general election.


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