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Democrat Dean Phillips must be added to state’s April primary ballot, Wisconsin Supreme Court says

The unanimous ruling by the court found a committee in charge of the ballot did not exercise discretion in keeping Phillips off the ballot

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., speaks at South Carolina's "First in the Nation" dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday Jan. 27, 2024.
Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., speaks at South Carolina’s “First in the Nation” dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday Jan. 27, 2024. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered state elections officials Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, to include Phillips on the state’s Democratic presidential primary ballot. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips must have his name added to Wisconsin’s April primary ballot.

The court issued its unsigned order unanimously Friday.

The Wisconsin Presidential Preference Selection Committee, which is made up of representatives from the state Democratic and Republican Parties, met briefly last month to approve candidates for the state’s April presidential primary. For Democrats, that list included only President Joe Biden.

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Phillips, a member of the U.S. House of Representative from Minnesota who is running a primary campaign against Biden, sued. His attorneys argued Wisconsin voters subsidize the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s primary, and they deserve a chance to vote for the same nationally recognized candidates who are appearing on other states’ ballots.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice argued against the move, telling justices that Phillips had waited too long to petition the court. The state DOJ also said Wisconsin law gave Phillips another avenue to the ballot by gathering at least 8,000 signatures, with at least 1,000 from each of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts.

In their 12-page order Friday, justices sided with Phillips and rejected the DOJ’s argument in no uncertain terms. The court noted that despite being contacted by Phillips, the Presidential Preference Selection Committee gave no consideration to his request during a meeting that lasted just over five minutes.

“We conclude that the Presidential Preference Selection Committee erroneously exercised its discretion,” the court wrote.

Justices wrote that they would normally remand the issue back to the committee with instructions on how to properly exercise its discretion. But in this case, they stated, the Wisconsin Elections Commission needed a final list of candidates so that local election officials can begin preparing, printing, delivering and mailing absentee ballots.

“Consequently, we direct that the name of Dean Phillips be placed on the 2024 Democratic presidential preference primary ballot as a candidate for the office of president of the United States,” justices wrote.

In addition to Biden and Phillips in the Democratic primary, the April ballot will list six Republicans. They include former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. The GOP ballot will also include several Republicans who have since dropped out of the presidential race.

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