ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Republican state representative is in danger of being kicked off the November ballot after a judge ruled that he doesn’t live in his legislative district.
The final decision on Rep. Bob Barrett is up to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which will hear the case Sept. 6.
But Ramsey County District Judge George Stephenson ruled Friday that “clear and convincing evidence” suggests Barrett doesn’t live in the district he represents, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported (http://bit.ly/2bYYgCc ).
“The evidence supports removing Candidate Barrett’s name from the ballot,” Stephenson wrote in his opinion.
Minnesota law says legislative candidates must live in the district where they’re running for at least six months before the election. Barrett lists his formal address as a rental home in Taylors Falls, which is in District 32B, but he and his wife also own a home in Shafter, which is just outside his district.
“I look forward to taking this to the Supreme Court, and I am confident I will ultimately prevail,” Barrett said in a statement.
Four Democratic activists alleged in a lawsuit that Barrett doesn’t actually live in the Taylors Falls home. The newspaper reports that they went to great lengths to prove their point, including visiting the home 30 times over 15 days, leaving a stick in the front door that would be disturbed if anyone entered and setting up a motion-activated trail camera to monitor the driveway.
Stephenson concluded that the evidence showed that Barrett was almost never at the home during the crucial period when he needed to establish residency in the district. The judge also rejected a claim from Barrett that the evidence should be thrown out because it was an “illegal invasion of his privacy.”
This isn’t the first time Barrett’s residency has been challenged. A lawsuit in the 2014 election also alleged he didn’t live in his district, but a judge found that Barrett’s challengers didn’t offer credible proof.
Barrett is being challenged by Democratic candidate Laurie Warner, whom he beat in 2014. But removing Barrett’s name from the ballot won’t be a simple process if the Supreme Court finds he isn’t a legal resident of his district. Under state law, if a candidate is removed from the ballot this close to the election, the ballots aren’t reprinted.
Instead, Barrett’s and Warner’s names will both appear on the ballot — but the results won’t count, no matter who gets more votes. Then, a special election would be held February unless the Supreme Court orders some other course of action.
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com